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Mem Cognit. 2007 Jan;35(1):29-38.

The relationship of analogical distance to analogical function and preinventive structure: the case of engineering design.

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Department of Marketing, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Analogy was studied in real-world engineering design, using the in vivo method. Analogizing was found to occur frequently, entailing a roughly equal amount of within- and between-domain analogies. In partial support for theories of unconscious plagiarism (Brown & Murphy, 1989; Marsh, Landau, & Hicks, 1996) and Ward's (1994) path-of-least-resistance model, it was found that the reference to exemplars (in the form of prototypes) significantly reduced the number of between-domain analogies between source and target, as compared with using sketches or no external representational systems. Analogy served three functions in relation to novel design concepts: identifying problems, solving problems, and explaining concepts. Problem identifying analogies were mainly within domain, explanatory analogies were mainly between domain, and problem-solving analogies were a mixture of within- and between-domain analogies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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