Effective Analogical Transfer Using Biological Descriptions Retrieved with Functional and Biologically Meaningful Keywords

Hyunmin Cheong, L. H. Shu

ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference


While biology is well recognized as a good source of analogies for engineering design, the steps of 1) retrieving relevant analogies and 2) applying these analogies are not trivial. Our recent work translated the functional terms of the Functional Basis into biologically meaningful keywords that can help engineers search for and retrieve relevant biological phenomena for design, addressing step 1 above. This paper reports progress towards step 2: identifying and overcoming obstacles to effective analogical transfer and application of biological descriptions retrieved with functional and biologically meaningful keywords. This work revealed that the presence of, and ease of recognizing, causal relations (relationships between two actions where one causes another) in biological descriptions plays a key role in the quality of analogical transfers. We observed that novice designers found it difficult to correctly transfer analogies when they could not easily recognize the causal relations present in biological descriptions. Two major factors that rendered this recognition difficult were: 1) a large number of action words appearing in the descriptions, and 2) key action words being used in the passive voice. To overcome these factors, we propose a template that guides designers to 1) recognize the relevant causal relations in biological descriptions and 2) focus on the functional elements of the causal relations.

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