Defining far transfer via thematic similarity
analogical reasoning, epistemic beliefs, far transfer, similarity, transfer of learning
One of the most valuable functions of philosophy within the cognitive sciences and education is to help clarify important concepts, and the transfer of learning—particularly far transfer—is one such concept needing extra clarification. This is for two reasons. First, determining the psychological distance of transfer is a subjective matter depending on how similar the base and target are proposed to be which makes labeling instances of far transfer difficult. Second, current theoretical mechanisms of transfer, based on analogical reasoning structure mapping theories, struggle to explain instances of far transfer because of their commitment to structural similarity. This paper addresses these two issues by proposing an additional level of similarity—called thematic similarity—that people may use when engaging in transfer. Based on the philosophical ideas of Stephen Pepper and Gerald Holton, similarity at the thematic level is distinguished from other previously theorized levels of similarity in that it is prefigurative rather than structural. Furthermore, transfer is defined as near or far depending on the type of similarity that is involved in the transfer process rather than according to the total amount of similarity between the target and base. The paper concludes with a discussion regarding the empirical testability of these ideas.
Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Forsyth, Benjamin Robert, "Defining far transfer via thematic similarity" (2018). Faculty Publications. 789.