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An Eye-tracking Analysis of the Effect of Prior Comparison on Analogical Mapping

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Abstract

The present research examined the effect of prior experience on the distribution of attention during judgments of analogical similarity. Identifying analogical similarity requires mapping a set of relations in one situation onto a matching set of relations in an analogous situation. Analogical mapping is difficult when the common relational structure is embedded in contexts with dissimilar surface features and irrelevant surface similarities. Prior comparison of analogs may help subjects find future relational correspondences and ignore surface similarity (Markman and Gentner 1993). In the present study, attention was measured with eye tracking, which was monitored while subjects rated the similarity of analogous scenes. Experimental but not control subjects had previously compared scenes with the same structure. Eye fixation data indicated that prior comparison did not affect attention to structure-relevant objects, but significantly reduced attention to irrelevant surface-similar objects. Scanning data showing that both groups scanned within scenes more than between scenes were consistent with structure-mapping models of analogy.

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Notes

  1. We initially created “Lookzones” for each object that were rectangular coordinates circumscribing the objects, allowing Gazetracker to automatically identify the location of each fixation. However, because the objects were irregularly shaped, rectangles large enough to circumscribe some parts of an object sometimes then included areas that were not reasonably close to the object. Thus, we verified the location of fixations by using judges blind to the hypotheses.

  2. Proportions are used since, for both structures, control subjects averaged more total fixations than prior-comparison subjects, though the differences were not significant. For the Structure A analogy, M = 15.8, SD = 7.9 and M = 23, SD = 12.4 for the prior-comparison and control groups respectively, t (21) =− 1.6, p = .12. For the Structure B analogy, M = 19.9, SD = 5.5 and M = 26.7, SD = 13.1 for the two groups respectively, t (21) =− 1.6, p = .13.

  3. Additional analyses showed that this pattern did not change over time. When viewing time was divided for each subject into three equal time periods, there were no significant interactions between time period and the proportion of movements of each type; the greater frequency of within-scene movements remained across time period.

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Correspondence to Catherine A. Clement.

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Clement, C.A., Harris, R.C., Burns, B.M. et al. An Eye-tracking Analysis of the Effect of Prior Comparison on Analogical Mapping. Curr Psychol 29, 273–287 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-010-9088-4

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