Theories of Comparative Analysis
Comparative analysis is the problem of predicting how a system will react to perturbations in its parameters, and why. For example, comparative analysis could be asked to explain why the period of an oscillating spring/block system would increase if the mass of the block were larger. This thesis formalizes the task of comparative analysis and presents two solution techniques: differential qualitative (DQ) analysis and exaggeration. Both techniques solve many comparative analysis problems, providing explanations suitable for use by design systems, automated diagnosis, intelligent tutoring systems, and explanation based generalization. This thesis explains the theoretical basis for each technique, describes how they are implemented, and discusses the difference between the two. DQ analysis is sound; it never generates an incorrect answer to a comparative analysis question. Although exaggeration does occasionally produce misleading answers, it solves a larger class of problems than DQ analysis and frequently results in simpler explanations.