Memory & Cognition

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 29–38 | Cite as

The relationship of analogical distance to analogical function and preinventive structure: the case of engineering design

  • Bo T. ChristensenEmail author
  • Christian D. Schunn


Analogy was studied in real-world engineering design, using the in vivo method. Analogizing was found to occur frequently, entailing a roughly equal amount of within- and between-domain analogies. In partial support for theories of unconscious plagiarism (Brown & Murphy, 1989; Marsh, Landau, & Hicks, 1996) and Ward’s (1994) path-of-least-resistance model, it was found that the reference to exemplars (in the form of prototypes) significantly reduced the number of between-domain analogies between source and target, as compared with using sketches or no external representational systems. Analogy served three functions in relation to novel design concepts: identifying problems, solving problems, and explaining concepts. Problem identifying analogies were mainly within domain, explanatory analogies were mainly between domain, and problem-solving analogies were a mixture of within- and between-domain analogies.


Design Object External Support Analogical Reasoning External Representation Medical Plastic 
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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburgh
  2. 2.Department of MarketingCopenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark

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