Quantitative Analysis of Analogy by Similarity

Stuart J. Russell

In the absence of specific relevance information, the traditional assumption in the study of analogy has been that the most similar analogue is most likely to provide the correct solutions; a justification for this assumption has been lacking, as has any relation between the similarity measure used and the probability of correctness of the analogy. We show how a statistical analysis can be performed to give the probability that a given source will provide a successful analogy, using only the assumption that there are some relevant features somewhere in the source and target descriptions. The predicted variation of the probability with source-target similarity corresponds closely to empirical analogy data obtained by Shepard for human and animal subjects for a wide variety of domains. The utility of analogy by similarity seems to rest on some very fundamental assumptions about the nature of our representations.


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