When Reasoning Modifies Memory: Schematic Assimilation Triggered by Analogical Mapping

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Abstract

Analogical mapping highlights shared relations that link 2 situations, potentially at the expense of information that does not fit the dominant pattern of correspondences. To investigate whether analogical mapping can alter subsequent recognition memory for features of a source analog, we performed 2 experiments with 4-term proportional analogies (A:B::C:D), using problems based on cartoon figures varying on 4 visual dimensions. The source analog (A:B) was encoded before the reasoner was told which dimension was relevant to the analogy. After encoding, the A:B pair disappeared, 1 randomly selected dimension was specified as the basis for an analogical decision, and the target (C:D) was presented. A decision about the validity of the analogy was then made, after which memory for the A:B pair was assessed by a recognition test. In Experiment 1, we found that participants’ recognition memory was reduced for lures involving a feature change on a dimension initially inconsistent with the analogical decision relative to a change on a dimension that had been consistent with it. The results of Experiment 2 revealed that this memory decrement occurred only when the change in the initially inconsistent feature caused the lure to be coherent with the overall schematic pattern of relational correspondences. These findings suggest that analogical reasoning can trigger changes in the memory representation of a source analog stored in memory such that subsequent recognition is guided by a relational schema.

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