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Hardcover | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262082334 | 336 pp. | 6 x 9 in | December 1994
Paperback | $35.00 Text | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780262581448 | 336 pp. | 6 x 9 in | January 1996

Mental Leaps

Analogy in Creative Thought


Analogy—recalling familiar past situations to deal with novel ones—is a mental tool that everyone uses. Analogy can provide invaluable creative insights, but it can also lead to dangerous errors. In Mental Leaps two leading cognitive scientists show how analogy works and how it can be used most effectively. Keith Holyoak and Paul Thagard provide a unified, comprehensive account of the diverse operations and applications of analogy, including problem solving, decision making, explanation, and communication.

Holyoak and Thagard present their own theory of analogy, considering its implications for cognitive science in general, and survey examples from many other domains. These include animal cognition, developmental and social psychology, political science, philosophy, history of science, anthropology, and literature.

Understanding how we draw analogies is important for people interested in the evolution of thinking in animals and in children; for those whose focus is on either creative thinking or errors of everyday reasoning; for those concerned with how decisions are made in law, business, and politics; and for those striving to improve education. Mental Leaps covers all of this ground, emphasizing the principles that govern the use of analogy and keeping technical matters to a minimum.

A Bradford Book

About the Author

Paul Thagard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. He is the author of The Cognitive Science of Science (MIT Press, 2012) and many other books.


“At once a contribution to the continuing scholarly debate on the nature of analogy and an accessible interdisciplinary overview for the general reader of this central process of thinking and communication.”—David Lorimer, Times Higher Education Supplement


“Holyoak and Thagard are certainly the best possible authors for the subject of analogy. They are among the most active researchers in the field, and their theoretical orientations (multiconstrant theory of analogy and symbolic connectionist modeling) are balanced and integrative, and they have a wide perspective and can write in a way comprehensible even to nonspecialists.”
Giyoo Hatano
Mental Leaps covers a remarkable wide area from animal intelligence, to cognitive development, to the role of analogies in law, science, and culture. Futhermore, it does so in a way that is technically state of the art, as well as being interesting and accessible to readers in many professions and disciplines. The result is a book that can be read for information, for argument, and for enjoyment.”
Graeme Halford