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Comparison within pairs promotes analogical abstraction in three-month-olds

Anderson, E. M., Chang, Y. J., Hespos, S., & Gentner, D. (2018). Comparison within pairs promotes analogical abstraction in three-month-olds. Cognition, 176, 74-86.

SILC Member and cognitive science graduate student, Erin M Anderson, published this article about analogical abstraction alongside her adviser and SILC faculty, Sue Hespos.

Abstract: This research tests whether analogical learning is present before language comprehension. Three-month-old infants were habituated to a series of analogous pairs, instantiating either the same relation (e.g., AA, BB, etc.) or the different relation (e.g., AB, CD, etc.), and then tested with further exemplars of the relations. If they can distinguish the familiar relation from the novel relation, even with new objects, this is evidence for analogical abstraction across the study pairs. In Experiment 1, we did not find evidence of analogical abstraction when 3- month-olds were habituated to six pairs instantiating the relation. However, in Experiment 2, infants showed evidence of analogical abstraction after habituation to two alternating pairs (e.g., AA, BB, AA, BB…). Further, as with older groups, rendering individual objects salient disrupted learning the relation. These results demonstrate that 3-month-old infants are capable of comparison and abstraction of the same/different relation. Our findings also place limits on the conditions under which these processes are likely to occur. We discuss implications for theories of relational learning.