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How Analogies Can Make You Better at Arguments

Deconstructing Analogies

When we deconstruct analogies, we find out why they function so effectively.

Analogies meet five criteria:

  • Use the highly familiar to explain something less familiar.
  • Highlight similarities and obscure differences.
  • Identify useful abstractions.
  • Tell a coherent story. The narrative need not be accurate. It is the feeling and ideas the analogy evokes that makes it powerful.
  • Resonate emotionally.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How Analogies Can Make You Better at Arguments

How Analogies Can Make You Better at Arguments

https://time.com/4135307/analogies/

time.com

6

Key Ideas

Analogy

An analogy is a comparison that asserts a parallel between two distinct things, based on the perception of a shared property.

Analogies appear in metaphors, similes, political slogans, legal arguments, marketing taglines, mathematical formulas, biblical parables, logos, TV ads, euphemisms, proverbs, fables, and sports clichés.

An analogy is a tool

Analogies are arguments that operate unnoticed. Like icebergs, they conceal most of their mass and power beneath the surface.

Analogies are also used in innovation and decision making. For instance, the "bicycle for the mind” that Steve Jobs envisioned as a Macintosh computer.

The importance of a good analogy

Using analogies help us to communicate effectively. For example, Warren Buffett noted "You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out,” meaning when times are bad, hidden weaknesses are exposed.

Lack of awareness of an analogy's influence can come at a cost. The ability to construct a good analogy can help you reach your outcomes.

Analogies frame situations

Effective, persuasive analogies frame situations and arguments.

Like picture frames, conceptual frames include ideas, images and emotions and exclude others. It can be used for better or worse, and influence the direction of the thinking of all parties.

Deconstructing Analogies

When we deconstruct analogies, we find out why they function so effectively.

Analogies meet five criteria:

  • Use the highly familiar to explain something less familiar.
  • Highlight similarities and obscure differences.
  • Identify useful abstractions.
  • Tell a coherent story. The narrative need not be accurate. It is the feeling and ideas the analogy evokes that makes it powerful.
  • Resonate emotionally.

Jumping to Conclusions

A good analogy serves as an intellectual springboard that helps us jump to conclusions. It is efficient if the findings are likely to be correct, and can save time and effort.

However, if the analogy is misleading, we are likely not to notice. Assumptions reinforce our preconceptions and preferences, known as confirmation bias. All statements should be considered and evaluated, even if they confirm the beliefs we currently hold.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

When trying to get your point across...

... avoid negative language.

Using negative words will activate and strengthen your opponent's frames and undermine your own views.  Successfully arguing a point requires you to ...

Mental frames

... are structure that are represented in the brain by neural circuitry. Frames shape the way people see the world, and consequently, the goals they seek and the choices that they make.

Mental frames and decision making

They are extremely powerful, because most of our actions are based on the unconscious and metaphorical frames we already have in place. And once a frame is in place, the boundaries of that frame and the associations of that frame are all taken into account in our decision making.

Intelligence is not genius

Genius is not about having an extraordinarily high IQ, or even about being smart. It is not about finishing Mensa exercises in record time or mastering fourteen languages at the age of seven.

Geniuses and problem solving

Leonardo da Vinci believed you begin by learning how to restructure the problem by looking at it from many different angles.

In order to creatively solve a problem, the thinker should not use the usual approach that is based on past experience. Geniuses use several different perspectives to solve an existing problem and thereby also identify new ones.

Making your thoughts visible

Galileo revolutionized science by making his idea visible with diagrams, maps, and drawings. Einstein believed that words and numbers as they are spoken did not play a significant role in his thinking process.

Geniuses seem to develop a skill to display information in visual and spatial forms, rather than only mathematical or verbal lines. 

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Channel your inner learner

Children instinctively pursue knowledge by actively moving around their environments, observing what’s going on around them, and taking mental notes about what they experience.

By assuming...

Spend time exploring

It’s both natural and useful to take time to explore a task before committing to one path forward. 

While children tend to do this automatically, adults may need to plan ahead for their exploratory time. Explore: consider multiple solutions, ask questions that may seem tangential, and be open to discovering unexpected ways to tackle the project.

Give yourself a blank slate

Adults generally do a great job of applying past knowledge to new situations. Children’s brains thrive instead in unfamiliar contexts, in part because more contexts are unfamiliar to them. 

So the next time you’re tasked with a completely new project, don’t force your prior knowledge onto it.

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