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Expert Analogy Use in a Naturalistic Setting

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Frontiers in Psychology

Donald R. Kretz and Daniel C. Krawczyk

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Analogies allow us to better understand complex topics and relate them to previous experiences. In this observational study, researchers analyzed recordings of economics experts and attempted to discern patterns in the way speakers use analogies. Analogies were measured along two dimensions: the categorical distance and structural depth of the analogies produced. Analogical depth refers to whether the similarities between source-to-target mapping are based more on superficial surface features or more structural relations, and categorical depth measures the degree of separation between the domains of the source and target analogs. Researchers also aimed to determine the purpose of the analogies generated. Some of the categories used to measure the purpose included differentiation (used to illustrate differences between a source and target), inclusion (highlight a target as being a type of component of a source), and example (present the target as an instance of the source). The purpose was utilized as a third dimension of measurement.Researchers concluded that when a speaker’s goal was to generate an analogy with visual imagery, the source analogy was typically in a different domain than the target analog. In contrast, a within-domain source was used most frequently when speakers analogized by example. The most noticeable observation from this study was that among economics experts and students, the use of analogy for exploration and explanation was very frequent, with 97 analogies extracted from 427 minutes of discourse. Overall, results suggest that analogies are not one-size-fits-all, and different experts have a diverse set, all of which depend on the setting, the expertise of the audience, and the speaker’s goal. 

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Daniel Krawczyk, PhD

Deputy Director of Research Debbie and Jim Francis Chair and Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

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