The present research examined the effect of prior experience on the distribution of attention during judgments of analogical similarity. Identifying analogical similarity requires mapping a set of relations in one situation onto a matching set of relations in an analogous situation. Analogical mapping is difficult when the common relational structure is embedded in contexts with dissimilar surface features and irrelevant surface similarities. Prior comparison of analogs may help subjects find future relational correspondences and ignore surface similarity (Markman and Gentner 1993). In the present study, attention was measured with eye tracking, which was monitored while subjects rated the similarity of analogous scenes. Experimental but not control subjects had previously compared scenes with the same structure. Eye fixation data indicated that prior comparison did not affect attention to structure-relevant objects, but significantly reduced attention to irrelevant surface-similar objects. Scanning data showing that both groups scanned within scenes more than between scenes were consistent with structure-mapping models of analogy.
An eye-tracking analysis of the effect of prior comparison on analogical mapping