Analogy is a core concept in cognition

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We begin with a couple of simple queries about familiar phenomena: “Why do babies not remember events that happen to them?” and “Why does each new year seem to pass faster than the one before?”

I wouldn’t swear that I have the final answer to either one of these queries, but I do have a hunch, and I will here speculate on the basis of that hunch. And thus: the answer to both is basically the same, I would argue, and it has to do with the relentless, lifelong process of chunking — taking “small” concepts and putting them together into bigger and bigger ones, thus recursively building up a giant repertoire of concepts in the mind. How, then, might chunking provide the clue to these riddles?

Well, babies’ concepts are simply too small. They have no way of framing entire events whatsoever in terms of their novice concepts. It is as if babies were looking at life through a randomly drifting keyhole, and at each moment could make out only the most local aspects of scenes before them. It would be hopeless to try to figure out how a whole room is organized, for instance, given just a keyhole view, even a randomly drifting keyhole view.  (Hofstadter, D. Analogy as the Core of Cognition.  The Analogical Mind: Perspectives from Cognitive Science, Dedre Gentner, Keith J. Holyoak, and Boicho N. Kokinov (eds.). Cambridge MA: The MIT Press/Bradford Book, 2001, pp. 499-538.)


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