Using Spatial Analogy to Facilitate Graph Learning

  • Linsey A. Smith
  • Dedre Gentner
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7463)


Graphical depictions of complex interactions pose a challenge to spatial reasoning. In this research, we tested whether analogical processes can be harnessed to help students learn to solve complex graphical reasoning problems. Specifically, we asked whether a brief training experience using spatial analogies could help students learn about stock-and-flow graphs. The basic idea of our intervention was to juxtapose contrastive graphs and encourage students to compare them. In two studies, we test the following predictions derived from structural alignment theories of analogy: (1) comparing contrastive graphs during training will lead to better performance in a graph-understanding task than will studying the same exemplars sequentially; and (2) comparing high-similarity pairs will lead to better performance than will comparing low similarity pairs. The results support both of these predictions, indicating that even a brief analogical comparison task can confer relational insight. Further, these results corroborate prior evidence that a structural alignment process underlies analogical comparison.


Analogy Analogical Comparison Structural Alignment Spatial Learning Graphical Reasoning 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linsey A. Smith
    • 1
  • Dedre Gentner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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