Reviving Inert Knowledge: Analogical Abstraction Supports Relational Retrieval of Past Events


should be sent to Dedre Gentner, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208. E-mail:


We present five experiments and simulation studies to establish late analogical abstraction as a new psychological phenomenon: Schema abstraction from analogical examples can revive otherwise inert knowledge. We find that comparing two analogous examples of negotiations at recall time promotes retrieving analogical matches stored in memory—a notoriously elusive effect. Another innovation in this research is that we show parallel effects for real-life autobiographical memory (Experiments 1–3) and for a controlled memory set (Experiments 4 and 5). Simulation studies show that a unified model based on schema abstraction can capture backward (retrieval) effects as well as forward (transfer) effects.