comprehensive concept of “analogy” should contemplate its two dimensions: as a kind of reasoning and an expressive system of language. Metaphor, simile, homology, and comparison are figures of speech that can be viewed as analogies.

The origins of the term analogy

The term “analogy” has its origin in the Greek word analogy , composed of particles – ana- and -logia-, mean repetition / comparison and rationale (of logos ), respectively. 

With this etymological basis, “analogy would be a comparison or link between various reasons or notions. Latinos literally transcribed the term “analogy and, at the same time, interpreted it as purpose (proportion).

In Spanish, the word “analogía” refers to “resemblance”. However, it is not only a coincidence or similarity between two things, but also a discrepancy.

Two or more similar things are not by definition equal ; agree on something; but, on the other hand, they differ. The analogy then indicates that several things coincide in some parts and not in others.

It is important to make this clear. Analogy does not mean absolute equality or repetition of something. Rather, it is embedded in the notion of similarity . Under these terms the concept of analogy can be much better understood.

The usefulness of this concept

The analogy serves to compare unequal referents , in order to underline general and particular features in common, and to justify the existence of a property in one of them.

The logic of analogy is represented by the following formula: A is to B as C is to D. In this sense, it is both a comparison between various concepts and a similarity, which is also a comparison. It is used to see common and uncommon aspects. The interesting thing is that it not only highlights the similarities, but makes the inequalities clear.

The analogy is, strictly speaking, a resemblance and a form of predication of a common name to the various objects to which it is attributed. For this reason, it is often considered to apply more to processes and protocols, rather than to things that are physically described.

In short, analogy implies similarity, but not equality . It is a type of preaching in which a common name is taken according to similar meanings.

Classification of analogies and examples

It happens that not all analogies are the same. To make this clear, two types of term analogies are presented below, each comprising several subclasses.

  • Symmetric analogies

These are those where the terms can be interchanged . This happens thanks to the fact that there is an equivalence between these terms. It is added that such analogies can be categorized as follows:

    1. Co-generic analogies: are those in which ideas (objects, things or animals) are part of the same category. For example :  bird-dove.
    2. Synonymy Analogies Synonymy analogies, as noted, are two words that are synonymous. For example: calm-calm.
    3. Complementarity analogies: the analogy requires and complements one of the words. For example: thirst-water.

Perhaps, they are the simplest. It can be said, from a linguistic point of view, that these analogies imply two things that share semantic content.


  • Asymmetric analogies


They are those that confront terms or ideas that are contrary , sometimes falling into a rhetorical figure called paradox. Basically, more than trying to compare them, it is about understanding them in context.

    1. Opposition analogies: the analogy occurs between unequals. For example: charitable-selfish.
    2. Analogies of intensity: it is the analogy produced between two terms that have a relationship of importance -major or minor- with respect to the other. For example: bluish-blue.
    3. Inclusive analogy: the analogy arises from the idea of ​​the set (whole) and the element (part) of the set. In turn, this type of analogy is subdivided as follows:
      • All-part. For example: tree-stem.
      • Container-content. For example: cartoon-drawing.
      • Genus-species. For example:  homo – homo-sapiens .
      • Set-element . For example: keyboard-key.

These analogies are quite frequent. However, people do not usually study them thoroughly.

    1. Analogy by location: the analogy arises from the position or place of transit of one of the signs or terms. For example: yacht-port.
    2. Cause-effect analogy : it is established by causality. For example, water-wet.
    3. Analogy of sequentiality: it is one that is generated by the continuity between two terms. For example: death-mourning.
    4. Analogy by function: it takes place by the role (or use) that both terms refer to. For example, key-open.
    5. Analogy by reciprocity: in these analogies the denominations need each other. For example, fisherman-fish.
    6. Analogy for the product: these analogies consist in that one of the terms represents the product and the other the producer. For example: art-artist.
    7. Analogy by means and instrument: these analogies emphasize the utensil or device. For example: painter-brush.
    8. Characteristic analogy: it is one that occurs between two terms, where one of them underlines an attribute or characteristic of the other. For example, gold-glitter.

In the realm of complex linguistic structures, analogies are systems of reasoning, commonly used to explain and balance various ideas or concepts.

Other examples and explanations on this topic

Next, a set of analogies are transcribed , which refer to different topics. The intention is to make clear how this works, so that readers understand better that the use of analog is often part of everyday life:

  • Analogies used in art: “Space is to architecture, what color is to painting”; “The brush is to painting what the guitar is to music.”
  • Analogies in religion: “The devil is to evil what an angel is to good”; The Bible is for Christians what the Popol Vuh was for the Mayans ”.
    • Analogies in sport: Usain Bolt was to athletics what James Watson was to biology. It is thus understood that physical training is for the body what learning is for the brain ”.
    • Analogies in Philosophy: ” Philosophy is to human existence what psychologbiology is to natural species.” A curious way of drawing a similarity between two very different disciplinary areas.
  • Miscellaneous Analogies: Here we have chosen to compile several ways and examples about these kinds of similarities.
  • “Madrid is in Spain what Washington is in the United States of America.”
  • “Climbing a mountain is for me what it is for others to remove the skin of a tangerine.”
  • “A fruit is to a tree the same as a son to a father”; “Flying is to a hawk what sailing is to a ship.”
  • “A piece of cheese is to a mouse what a fruit is to a bird.”
  •  “The day is to the week what the weeks are to the months.”

What is inferred from the accumulation of examples presented? Well, analogies are more common than we think . They even become a very expressive expressive device in popular jargon.

Analog reasoning and analogy in Psychology

The analogy as a verbal and written strategy is commonly used in different areas of thought, from language and formal logic, to law, philosophy, and even more specific areas, such as  psychology and biology, where particular events are designated with the same term.

The power of analogy as a rhetorical figure is evident, since with it a greater expressive power is achieved.

But, in addition, it happens that the analogy has an essential function in the argumentation , with which one passes from the known to the unknown by means of a comparison between referents.

Based on the principle of analogy, there are four types of arguments. These are important to use as they are ways to present an idea in a compelling way. We present them below:

1.- Interpolation: the analogy by interpolation consists of the analysis of all the possible realities of an imaginary context and the consequences of each one, which are then transferred to the reality under examination.

For example: if a person carries out several professional activities at the same time and refuses to establish hierarchies and delegate responsibilities in his company, the following reasoning could be enunciated by interpolation: “who covers a lot, little squeezes”.

It is difficult for a person to squeeze beyond their arms, indicates the imaginary situation, brought to the reality of those who attend to more things than time allows.

2.- Extrapolation: it happens that the analogy by extrapolation is frequently used in the field of science, as it is part of the scientific method.

Basically, it starts from the assumption that the components of a scenario will continue to happen in the future, which would lead to suppose a new set of rules that will allow, if true, to reach a new conclusion.

For example: working hypotheses suppose some statements that are projected into the future and that must be corroborated to reach new conclusions. Arguments by analogies of the “extrapolation” type start from given situations.

3.- Reduction to the absurd: this type of analogy serves to demonstrate the validity of categorical propositions.

Reducing to the absurd implies assuming the hypothetical denial of the validity of the premise, in order to obtain an illogical conclusion through logical inferences.

For example: if it is taken for granted that the earth is flat, then it would be possible to reach its edge or observe the Sun from anywhere on the planet.

By proving both logical assertions absurd, there is no choice but to accept the roundness of the planet.

4.- Modeling: this type of argumentation by analogy is fundamental for the scientific method, since it uses a hypothetical model of reality, to know how (analogously) reality will behave.

As is well known, this kind of analogy is frequently used in the development of mathematical models of economic behavior, which would account for changes in the world market or the exchange rates of some currencies.

The analogical thinking can be defined as the transfer of knowledge from an area already known (analog base) to a new level (not known), which seeks to clarify, called analogous goal.

It is imperative that analogical thinking reaches a goal. Otherwise, it tends to be repetitive . That is, it does not enter a new area. This is one of the keys to elucidating this way of thinking .

The usefulness of analogical thought and processes

There are various cognitive strategies where their application is very useful: in the categorization of objects, the transfer of perceptual-motor models, the understanding of physical principles, etc.

As has been seen, the correspondence that takes place between the base domain and the target domain is called extrapolation and with this we seek to transfer the source domain to the target domain.

Extrapolation amounts to the “synthesis” of deductive thinking, or the “analysis” of analytical thinking . It is worth saying that people do not have a unique type of thinking. In fact, it is common to find the three ways to arrive at new knowledge: synthesis, analysis and extrapolation .

A tool used in various disciplines

It is not surprising that in the world of science analogies are used to address and study abstract concepts. In Psychology, and particularly in the psychoanalytic tendency, it has been of fundamental importance.

Freud used analogies to explain neurotic ceremonials . For example, for him the sacred acts of the religious rite are analogous to the latter: “… the fear that arises in the consciousness in case of omission, in the total exclusion of all other activities (prohibition of disturbance) and in the conscientious thoroughness of the execution ”.

Later, Freud proposed the differences between the two , in a quote that we place in full below:

“… The ceremonial acts are in their great individual diversity in the face of the stereotypy of the rite and their private nature in the face of publicity and the community of religious practices. But above all the fact that the details of religious ceremonial have a meaning and symbolic significance differentiates it from those of neurotic ceremonial, which seem foolish and absurd. Obsessive neurosis represents at this point a caricature, half comic and half sad, of a private religion ”.

The famous creator of psychoanalysis compared obsessive neurosis with religiosity:

“ Neurosis, as an individual religiosity, and religion, as a universal obsessional neurosis. The most important coincidence would be the basic renunciation of the activity of the constitutionally given instincts, and the decisive difference would consist in the nature of such instincts, exclusively sexual in neurosis and of selfish origin in religion ”. [See Freud, S. (1996). Obsessive acts and religious practices. Complete works . Volume 2. Madrid: New Library.]

The analogies that Freud used to explain his psychoanalytic theories are numerous . Suffice it to mention the above.

More implications of the analog in psychology

When carrying out a scrutiny of the different schools and psychological currents , many metaphorical explanations or analogical arguments can be found.

To explain the essence of the human psyche, psychoanalysis, for example, used the metaphor of the hydraulic system ; Behaviorism was based on machine systems.

Another interesting case is that of Piaget , who turned to biology when transferring the notion of biological homeostasis to intelligent equilibrium. In the last decades, Cognitive Psychology used the analogy of the computer to make explicit the functioning of the human mind.

Sigmund Freud, in his lectures, always used analogies to explain himself , which in the field of learning is still a widely used strategy.

Analog reasoning is an essential ingredient. And this is because learning occurs through a sequence that goes from direct instruction to total autonomy .

That is, from assisted learning to learning by experience and independent observation, without assistance. The analogical reasoning is autonomous , is assisted by inference, and on some level is present in most of the fundamentals of instruction.

Analog tools in learning

Recurrently, when something is explained to someone, analogies are used . For example, “it is the same as…” Questions like this are common in academia: “Do you remember when I explained how…? Well, something similar happens here ”.

Although in these cases, the analogies occur spontaneously , as part of a teacher-student dynamic, the use of analogical arguments is a strategy that, as a systematic and intentional tool, fulfills an important cognitive function.

Using analog with greater awareness has advantages. For example, the intention of using this tool is clear . Likewise, it can be improved and its relevance assessed . Therefore, you have to take into account all the aforementioned. It must be considered that analog is much more than an expressive resource. Actually, it is a way of thinking.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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