Using Analogies: A Thinking Skill

A good analogy does not just invoke some chance resemblance between the thing being explained and the thing introduced to explain it. It capitalizes on a deep similarity between the principles that govern the two things…A good analogy helps you think: the more you ponder it, the better you understand the phenomenon. But all too often in Angier’s writing, the similarity is sound-deep: the more you ponder the allusion, the worse you understand the phenomenon.

This is Steven Pinker, reviewing a book on scientific illiteracy.

The most impressive thinkers I know are quick on their feet with analogies. Good use of analogies doesn’t just represent a communication skill. It’s a thinking skill. It’s making sense of a thing based on its relationship to other things. It’s viewing an idea in context and explaining it to others as such.

Anyone have tips for how we can improve on this thinking skill, besides being self-aware of its importance?

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