Analogy is a cognitive process that involves transferring information or meaning from one subject (the analogue, or source) to another (the target). The term “analogy” originates from the Greek word analogia, which means “proportion.” Analogy can also be understood as a linguistic expression that corresponds to such process. In a more restricted meaning, an analogy is an inference or an argument that goes from one particular to another particular. This is in contrast to deduction, induction, and abduction, which are all forms of reasoning in which at least one of the premises or the conclusion is more general in character. The term “analogy” can also be used to refer to the relation between the source and the target itself, which is typically (but not always) a likeness, such as in the concept of “biological analogy.”
Problem-solving, decision-making, argumentation, perception, generalisation, memory, creativity, innovation, prediction, feeling, explanation, conceptualization, and communication are all important areas in which analogy plays a vital role. It is the driving force underlying fundamental activities such as the recognition of locations, objects, and people, for instance in face perception and facial recognition systems. Analogy has been called “the fundamental building block of cognition” by others. Exemplification, comparisons, metaphors, similes, allegories, and parables are all examples of specific analogical language; metonymy is not included in this category. Words and phrases such as, and so on, and the like, as if, and even the term “like” itself rely on the receiver of a message to have a knowledge of analogy in order to make sense of what is being communicated. Not only is analogy significant in everyday language and common sense (where numerous examples of its application may be found in idioms and proverbs), but it is also significant in the fields of science, philosophy, law, and the humanities. The following ideas are strongly connected to the concept of analogy: association, comparison, correspondence, mathematical and morphological homology, homomorphism, iconicity, isomorphism, metaphor, resemblance, and similarity. The idea of conceptual metaphor in cognitive linguistics may be comparable to the concept of analogy in other fields of study. An analogy can serve as a foundation for any kind of comparative argument, in addition to tests whose findings can be extrapolated to apply to things that have not been subjected to scrutiny (e.g., experiments on rats when results are applied to humans).
Since the time of classical antiquity, philosophers, physicists, theologians, and legal scholars have investigated and debated the concept of analogy. The use of analogy has seen a resurgence in popularity during the past few decades, particularly in the field of cognitive research.
When relational labels compensate for low transparency, language can facilitate analogical reasoning. Children struggle to determine the relationship between sets of boxes (e.g., Set 1: tiny, medium, and huge). Set 2: medium, large, extra large boxes). Children sometimes map the medium box in Set 1 to the medium box in Set 2 (which is smaller), when they should map the smallest box in Set 1 to the smallest box in Set 2. Labels like ‘baby,”mommy,’ and ‘daddy’ help children recognise this relationship.
Language may facilitate analogous reasoning, but it’s not required. Monkeys, who have poor language skills, may reason relationally when base and target are aligned.
Similarity of mapped things affects analogical reasoning. When base and destination object correspondences are similar, analogical processes are aided by transparency. Analogy helps problem-solving when it’s transparent. If a student is asked how many golf balls each golfer needs at a competition, they can apply this solution to future issues with similar objects (e.g. reasoning about how many tennis balls each player will need).
An individual needs time to align, infer, and evaluate before engaging in analogical processes. If given insufficient time for analogical thinking, one is more prone to dwell on lower-level object correspondences between the two systems, rather than recognising possibly more useful higher-order similar relationships. Similar consequences occur when working memory is overloaded (e.g., the person is trying to reason through an analogy while also keeping a word in the mind).
Children can use analogies to learn abstract patterns, but they need prompting.
Researchers taught 3- and 4-year-olds a simple relationship using drawings. Each child’s “toma” had 3 of the same animal. Some children were asked to compare ‘tomas’ while others weren’t. The youngsters were assessed on whether they had learned the abstract pattern (a ‘toma’ is a trio of matched animals) after seeing the photographs and being invited to compare. Which image is the ‘toma’? The first image was a relational match and showed a trio of matching animals they hadn’t seen previously. The second image was an object match and showed a triad of non-matching creatures they had seen while learning about the relationship. Children who were asked to compare tomas while learning were more likely to remember the pattern and chose the relational match on tests.
Children can learn abstract links without being prompted to make comparisons. After a relational shift, children focus more on detecting similar relational structures across contexts than matching objects. Continuing to focus on individual items hinders children’s capacity to acquire abstract patterns and engage in analogical reasoning. Some researchers have hypothesised that the relational shift is not driven by children’s fundamental cognitive capacities (i.e., working memory and inhibitory control), but by their relational knowledge, such as having labels for the items that make the relationships obvious. There isn’t enough information to tell if the relational shift is driven by cognitive maturity or relational understanding.
Several elements may improve a child’s likelihood of spontaneously engaging in comparison and learning an abstract relationship without encouragement. Comparison is more frequent when the things to be compared are spatiotemporally close, extremely similar (but not identical, which interferes with finding relationships), or have shared labels.
Electrical, mechanical, or electronic analogue ear.
Through isomorphism, some analogies can be formulated mathematically. Given two similar mathematical structures, an analogy is a bijection that preserves some or all of the structure.
The most frequent application of an analogy is the comparison of objects based on how they are similar to one another. One can, for instance, draw a comparison between the stages of life and the seasons of the year. People will also use analogies to make their arguments, claiming that giving up on a project is similar to leaving a house unfinished. Although an analogy can be rapidly described, as in these instances, an analogy incorporates the comparison or inference itself and differs from figures of speech, such as metaphors and similes, which are forms of expression, in that it is a way of expressing something.