Tracking Cognitive Phases in Analogical Reasoning With Event-Related Potentials

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Analogical reasoning consists of multiple phases. Four-term analogies (A:B::C:D) have an encoding period in which the A:B pair is evaluated prior to a mapping phase. The electrophysiological timing associated with analogical reasoning has remained unclear. We used event-related potentials to identify neural timing related to analogical reasoning relative to perceptual and semantic control conditions. Spatiotemporal principal-components analyses revealed differences primarily in left frontal electrodes during encoding and mapping phases of analogies relative to the other conditions. The timing of the activity differed depending upon the phase of the problem. During the encoding of A:B terms, analogies elicited a positive deflection compared to the control conditions between 400 and 1,200 ms, but for the mapping phase analogical processing elicited a negative deflection that occurred earlier and for a shorter time period, between 350 and 625 ms. These results provide neural and behavioral evidence that 4-term analogy problems involve a highly active evaluation phase of the A:B pair.

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