Both attentional control and the ability to make remote associations aid spontaneous analogical transfer
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Given the widespread belief that analogical processing is an important mechanism for creative problem solving, despite the rarity of spontaneous transfer in laboratory studies, a critical direction for future research is to address which abilities may allow for the spontaneous analogizing between distant (superficially dissimilar) sources and targets. This study explores the role of individual differences in attentional control and the ability to make remote associations and their possible combined effects on spontaneous analogical transfer. Participants attempted to solve Duncker's radiation problem after having been exposed to a distant source as part of an earlier task. Results indicated that both measures of attentional control and the ability to make remote associations uniquely predicted spontaneous transfer between a superficially dissimilar source and target. Further, a critical role was seen for the quality of the representation of the source analog on the likelihood of transfer. The present results affirm that the likelihood of spontaneous transfer depends critically on the quality of the representation for the source, but also suggest that individual differences in the ability to make remote associations may be more conducive to constructing a broader representation of that source than individual differences in attentional control.
KeywordsAnalogy Problem solving Attention Working memory Creativity
This article is based on research conducted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and was supported by a Psi Chi Graduate Research Grant to the first author. Thanks to James W. Pellegrino, Michael E. Ragozzino, Benjamin C. Storm, and Thomas C. Ormerod for their advice on this project as members of the dissertation committee and to Andrew Jarosz and other members of the Wiley Lab for discussions about this research. Additional thanks to Daniel Aiello, Krishna Amin, Jamila Broachwala, Raman Dhami, Rick Leonard, Anna Mankowska, Melissa Meinders, Magen Rooney, and Harleen Saini for their help in conducting this research.
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