Analogical Retrieval of Folktales: A Cross-Cultural Approach

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 University of California, Davis
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This cross-cultural study addressed how individuals retrieve and transfer naturally learned information (i.e., folktales) from long-term memory by analogy with a previously unencountered story, concept, or problem. American and Iranian participants read target stories constructed to be analogous to folktales either familiar or unfamiliar to their culture, all having high structural familiarity and either high or low surface similarity to the source folktales. Participants reported whether targets (analogues) reminded them of any specific folktale they had learned in the past; positive responses plus additional justification (i.e., the folktale’s name or its gist) were interpreted as successful analogical retrievals. The current experiment demonstrated a high overall rate of analogical retrieval for familiar folktales and essentially no retrieval for unfamiliar folktales. There was also reliably more retrieval for analogue stories having higher versus lower surface similarity to target folktales. The high salience of surface similarity was also revealed when participants rated retrieved folktales for similarity to the target. Personal familiarity with folktales increased the retrieval rate, but presenting the folktale’s name as a cue produced mixed effects on retrieval. In summary, individuals readily retrieved culturally familiar folktales from long-term memory when they encountered structurally similar analogues, but retrieval was modulated by surface similarity.

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