Introduction to the Special Section on the Neural Substrate of Analogical Reasoning and Metaphor Comprehension

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The special section on the neural substrate of relational reasoning includes 4 articles that address the processes and brain regions involved in analogical reasoning (Green, Kraemer, Fugelsang, Gray, & Dunbar, 2011; Maguire, McClelland, Donovan, Tillman, & Krawczyk, 2011) and in metaphor comprehension (Chettih, Durgin, & Grodner, 2011; Prat, Mason, & Just, 2011). We see this work as an example of how neuroscience approaches to cognition can lead to increased understanding of cognitive processes. In this brief introduction, we first situate the 4 articles in the context of prior cognitive neuroscience work on relational reasoning. We then highlight the main issues explored in these articles: different sources of complexity and difficulty in relational processing, potential differences between the roles of the 2 hemispheres, and the impact of individual differences in various cognitive abilities. The 4 articles illustrate a range of methodologies, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI; Green et al., 2011; Prat et al., 2011), event-related potentials (ERPs; Maguire et al., 2011), and different types of semantic priming (Chettih et al., 2011; Prat et al., 2011). They highlight the connections between research on analogy and on metaphor comprehension and suggest, collectively, that a cognitive neuroscience approach to relational reasoning can lead to converging conclusions.

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