The use of diagrams in analogical problem solving

Roberto Pedone, John E. Hummel, Keith J. Holyoak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In four experiments, we examined the impact of perceptual properties on the effectiveness of diagrams in analogical problem solving, using variants of convergence diagrams as source analogues for the radiation problem. Static diagrams representing the initial problematic state (one large line directed at a target) and the final state for a convergence solution (multiple converging lines) were not accessed spontaneously but were often used successfully once a hint to consider the diagram had been provided. The inaccessibility of static diagrams was not alleviated by adding additional diagrams to represent intermediate states (Experiment 1), but spontaneous access was improved by augmenting static diagrams with a verbal statement of the convergence principle (Experiment 3). Spontaneous retrieval and noticing were increased markedly by animating displays representing converging forces and thereby encouraging encoding of the lines as indicating motion toward a target (Experiments 3 and 4). However, neither static nor animated diagrams were effective when the arrows were reversed to imply divergence rather than convergence (Experiment 2). The results indicate that when animation encourages the interpretation of a diagram as a helpful source analogue, it can greatly enhance analogical transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberBF03194915
Pages (from-to)214-221
Number of pages8
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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