Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Power of Analogical Thinking

"Though analogy is often misleading, it is the least misleading thing we have." - Samuel Butler

Analogical thinking is well recognized for its importance in higher level creative thinking and successful problem solving, but it receives little formal consideration in conventional school curricula. We would even like to see it employed more in e-learning situations or the video gaming industry especially they may be the most common shared experience of young people (but that's for another post...).

In the study below, researchers visualized the difference between semantically and analogically related words, and it is a remarkabledifference. The green below indicates areas of brain activated when subjects see semantically related words like 'note' and 'scale' and 'rain' and 'drought', but look at how much brain and how many more areas get activated with analogous words like 'bouquet' and 'flower' and 'chain' and 'link'(analogy in red, common areas in yellow).



Analogy is properly the domain of higher order thought because it requires fluency - lots of ideas - and integration across multiple representations. Analogy is also more simply thought of as flexible pattern recognition, the process involved in all those good things that should be emphasized in education - critical thinking and deduction, inference, and solutions by insight.

Analogical Reasoning

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