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How analogies rule the world. | Slangbusters Blog
Nov 13, '19

How analogies rule the world.

When you say "It's like…", "If you put it that way…" or "Think of it like this" you are using analogies to communicate better.

Let's start this piece with a Vox documentary titled "some hospitals let a preventable infection kill their patients"

No seriously, watch it. It might not seem relevant to this piece yet, it will give further insight into how analogies can make it easier to understand the most complex of ideas.

So you have watched this documentary (yay!) You noticed how they compared the approach towards the plane and car accidents with the approach that hospital officials have with patient deaths. With this analogy, they coined both the types of approach that hospitals take as plane crash hospitals and car crash hospitals. The argument that car crash hospitals make (see, I'm already using the analogy) is that it is a business and doctors are humans who make mistakes like everyone else, just the stake is another human life. While the plane crash hospital approach is a model of learning from mistakes to constantly better themselves.

This is one example of how they conveyed a concept through an analogy. There is so much more that makes it such a powerful tool.


There are literally zero stories that are interesting without having analogies strengthen the plot by giving perspective on what the author is trying to convey.

When we look at Indian stories, most of them are entirely analogies trying to preach what is good and what is bad. The best examples would be epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and smaller stories like Amar Chitra Katha and Jataka tales. This proves analogies don't even have to be real, they can be completely mythical and hypothetical. The aim? Convey the message.

We took this fact into consideration and since we are big on Slangbusting, we dejargonized the biggest jargon of the branding industry- branding, through a story.

It's not rocket science, it doesn't have to be. That is why they have so many examples when they teach science.

The psychology of memory

Good analogies are like concepts that rhyme. And we all remember poetry that rhymes better than sentences that don't.

The best TED talks are the ones that put things into perspective by explaining complex things and putting them into common experiences so that masses can better grasp what is being conveyed.

"Analogies prove nothing, that is true," wrote Sigmund Freud, "but they can make one feel more at home."

I once saw this TED talk where the speaker rightly said, the brain is a big machine of association. We love putting things into boxes. A good analogy to explain this would be a folder management system. If data is stored in separate folders, it would easier to find them rather than having everything saved on the desktop. In the same manner, with millions of random things constantly being stored in your brain, it becomes easier for the neurons to process and transmit data.

Familiarity results in better comprehension and analogies use the highly familiar concepts to explain the less familiar.

Your confirmation bias feeds on analogies.

Teaching, preaching, persuading

One good analogy is worth three hours of discussion

This quote by American attorney Dudley Field Malone does not have a proven research backing but the emphasis is laid perfectly through exaggeration. Most quotes we see are just the smallest form of analogies. This is why they stick around and become timeless pieces of advice. "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." Basic and effective.

Good analogies have an element of surprise, making the concept even more memorable. It connects two things that you normally wouldn't associate together. It provides real, applicable knowledge beyond this entertainment value.

Sometimes, it might seem like using an analogy was a longer route taken for something that might have been conveyed directly in a shorter time. But in retrospect, using the analogy has many hidden benefits. Sometimes, instead of holding their hand taking the receiver to a conclusion, you show them the way and next time, they will recollect it better and reach the conclusion without help.

By using good analogies correctly, you -

• Help the receiver with visualization of the concept that further helps retain information,

• Speed up the conversation and convey better in lesser time,

• Make the conversation interactive

• Boost empathy through role reversal and a changed point of view

And remember, good analogies need not be the ones that are impeccably accurate. It is the feeling and ideas that it evokes that makes it powerful. When we look at the structure of an analogy, the argument is the highlight. The framing is adequate to establish it with full context while being subtle. This is what makes analogies so powerful.

But beware,

Analogies are like everything else. Use them correctly, in moderation, and only where necessary. A wrong analogy can add to the consumer's confusion, too many analogies can add to learner's frustration and unnecessary analogies make you look like a know-it-all who doesn't.

And remember, analogies are different from metaphors. (Image source: explain xkcd)

Analogies help jump to conclusions without having to jump to conclusions. It creates bridges to cross the river of confusion, faster.

Once you become aware of analogies, you will see them everywhere - in ads, apps, political debates, legal arguments, logos, and euphemisms, among many. They do rule the world. Analogies are like water that surrounds a fish… (okay I'll stop now, but you get the point of overusing analogies, right?)

But let's not stop this association we have right here. Let's take it further. Do you have a project that you want to be branded? Contact us.

— by Manas Daxini, Content Strategist, Slangbusters Studio

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