50 Examples Of Analogies For Critical Thinking

examples of analogies for critical thinking

What Are The Best Examples Of Analogies For Critical Thinking?

by Terry Heick

In our guide to teaching with analogies, we offered ideas, definitions, categories, and examples of analogies.

This post is a more specific version of that article where we focus specifically on types and examples of analogies rather than looking at teaching with analogies more broadly. Below, we offer more than 20 different types of analogies and examples of type of analogy as well–which results in nearly 100 examples of analogies overall.

Note that because an analogy is simply a pattern established by the nature of a relationship between two ‘things,’ there are an infinite number of kinds of analogies. You could, for example, set up an analogy by pairing two objects only loosely connected–brick and road, for example: a brick is to a road as…

Of course, analogies are best solved by creating a sentence that accurately captures the ‘truest and best’ essence of the relationship of the first two items in the analogy. So in the above brick/road example, you might say that ‘bricks used to be used to create roads,’ at which point all kinds of possibilities emerge: Bricks used to be used to create roads as glass used to be used to create bottles, yielding the analogy:

Bricks : Road :: Glass : Bottle

You could also use this in a specific content area–Social Studies, for example:

Bricks : Road :: Pamphlets : Propaganda

Language Arts?

Bricks : Roads :: Couplets : Sonnets? Maybe, but this leaves out the critical ‘used to be…’ bit.

You get the idea. By forcing students to distill one relationship in order to understand another, it’s almost impossible to accurately solve analogies without at least some kind of understanding–unless you use multiple-choice, in which case a lucky guess could do the trick.

Now, that’s a purposely far-fetched example. In most teaching and learning circumstances like courses and classrooms, analogies are used in common forms that are more or less obvious: part to whole, cause and effect, synonym and antonym, etc. This makes them less subjective and creative and easier to score on a multiple-choice question and can reduce the subjectivity of actually nailing down the uncertain relationship between ‘bricks’ and ‘roads.’ It becomes much easier when you use something with a more clear relationship, like ‘sapling is to tree as zygote is to…’

Of course, this misses the genius of analogies: asking students to see–and sometimes even create–the relationship between things rather than ‘choosing’ the ‘type’ of analogy. Analogies are brilliant teaching and learning tools that we use all of the time in everyday life to explain something by explaining something else.

(If you’d like to read more about this idea, I discussed it in some in ‘Why Questions Are More Important Than Answers.’) And it’s at this point that it feels like exploring how to use analogies for critical thinking might be more interesting than merely offering types of analogies, but for the sake of packaging and time, I’ll finish this post and re-address the ‘analogies for critical thinking’ bit later.

Why Analogies Are Valuable For Learning

In the guide to teaching with analogies shown above, I explained that, “Academic analogies are useful for teaching and learning because they require students to analyze a thing (or things), and then transfer that analysis that analysis to another thing. This kind of transfer requires at least some kind of conceptual grasp–understanding.”

I went on to offer that “This makes them useful for assessment, but they can also be used as an effective learning strategy as well. As students create incorrect analogies, analyze the relationships their analogies are suggesting, and then correct them accordingly, students are grappling with ideas, monitoring and revising their thinking, and otherwise actively consider the often complex relationships between disparate things.”

In fact, we’ve begun using analogies in our TeachThought University courses. They’re genius little tools to both cause and measure understanding. And while there are some common types of analogies that you (and students) will see most commonly, (antonyms, categories, part to whole, cause and effect, etc.), the truth is that unless two objects or ideas represent an entirely unique circumstance that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the universe, there should always be an analogous pairing or counterpart somewhere. They even function strongly as psychology-based critical thinking strategies.

Put another way, there are nearly an infinite number of analogies and an uncountable number of types of analogies. Consider the following:

Father : Pops :: Henry VIII : ______?

Tissue: Kleenex :: ______ : ______?

You could call these ‘slang’ analogies but the latter isn’t really slang. You could say also call them ‘more commonly known as’ analogies or even synonyms but that’s entirely the essence of the relationship either. This is a unique relationship–as so many are. You get the point: That there are an impossible number of things and relationships so there aren’t a set number of ‘types of analogies.’

The question for you, as a teacher, is which are the most helpful for you to cause and measure understanding with students? So for now, we’ve included the most common types of analogies and then added in some less common but still useful types of analogies. We’ve tried to make some simple and some more complex just to demonstrate the range and value of analogies in critical thinking.

Some, I’ve added commentary to. Others, I just included the examples. The general pattern I’ve used is to start with a simple example and then create a more complex analogy.

Note, there may be some disagreement about some of the ‘answers’ here–either from you as a reader or your students. That’s good! If your students are arguing that democracies aren’t actually the ‘opposite’ of a dictatorship, that means they likely at least vaguely grasp each and arguing about the similarities and differences!

What more can you ask for in introducing or reviewing content?

50+ Examples Of Analogies For Critical Thinking

1. Synonym Analogies

Funny : Humorous :: Hardworking : Diligent

Lead : Guide :: Drawing : Illustration

Mom : Mother :: Dog : _______

Beginner : Novice :: Law : ______

2. Antonym Analogies

Night : Day :: Right : Left

Wet : Dry : Hot : Cold

Open: Closed :: Free : ______

Empiricism : ______ :: Small : Big

3. Part/Whole Analogies

Electron: Molecule :: Country : Continent

Toe : Foot :: Finger : Hand

Stars : Galaxy :: Molecules : Object

Data : Scientific Process :: Thesis Statement : ______

4. Cause/Effect Analogies

Spin : Dizzy :: Jump : Elevate

Honesty: Trust :: Light : Plant Growth

Itch : Scratch :: Virus : Cold

Read : Learn :: Try : Improve

Rise of Social Messaging : Demise of Email :: __________: French Revolution

Writing Process : Idea Organization :: Eye Contact : ______

5. Thing/Function Analogies

Broom : Sweep :: Paintbrush : Paint

Freezer: Freeze :: Paper Towel : Wipe

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” : Civil Rights :: ________ : LBGTQ rights

Gravity : Pull :: Conflict : ______

6. Thing/Characteristic Analogies

Democracy : Equality :: Monarchy : One Ruler

Water : Wet :: Concrete : Hard

Mountain : Tall :: Desert : Dry

Sugar : Sweet :: Cheetah : Fast

Water : Wet :: Circles : ______

Wall : Bricks :: Sonnet : Lines

Mountain : Tall :: Globalization : _____

7. Thing/Context Analogies (similar to Part/Whole and other categories of analogies)

Cello : Symphony :: Creek : Forest

Plane : Hangar :: Surfboard : Beach

Field : Farm :: Audience : Arena

Conflict : Story :: Emoji : Texting

8. Example/Type Analogies

Orange : Fruit :: Hydrogen : Element

Kangaroo : Marsupial : Dog :: Mammal

Ford Mustang : Muscle Car :: Subaru BRZ : Sports Car

Deontology : Ethics: Cubism : Art

______ : Immigration Policy :: iPhone : Smartphone

9. Category/Subcategory Analogies

Phylum : Kingdom :: Aisle : Department

Sonnet: Petrarchan Sonnet :: Rose : Red Rose

Shape : Quadrilateral :: _______ : Orbit

10. Object/Classification Analogies

Bowl : Dish :: Sword : Weapon

Cat : Feline :: Dog : Canine

Porsche 911 : Sports Car :: Alligator : Reptile

Rain : Precipitation :: ______ : Rhyme Scheme

12. Fact/Opinion Analogies

Wet : Soaked :: 7 Seconds : Fast

6′ 4″ : Tall :: Awake : Smart

It’s 93 degrees : It’s Hot :: ________ :

13. Step/Process Analogies

Evaporation : Water Cycle :: ______ : Evolution

Test Theory : Scientific Process :: Stir : Make Chocolate Milk

Revision : Writing Process :: ______ :

______ : Sentence Diagramming

14. Problem/Solution Analogies

Tape : Paper Tear :: Knee Scrape : Bandaid

Alliteracy : Habits :: Lack of Cardiovascular Endurance : Lack of Exercise

Climate Change : Reduce Greenhouse Gases :: ________ : Poverty

15. Symbol/Referent Analogies

Peace Sign : Hippies :: Red Cross: Medical Professional

To make that a bit more complex, consider Peace Sign : Vietnam :: _____ : ______ where it could be seen that rather just “The Peace Sign characterized Hippies as…” you instead of “The Peace Sign was seen as a counter-symbol to Vietnam as…”, and so on. The following example is equally complex:

Guillotine: French Revolution :: Faulkner’s use of setting in A Rose for Emily : ________

To answer that, you’d have to know whether or not it was commonly considered for the guillotine to ‘represent’ the Fresh Revolution and then further, exactly how Faulkner used setting in ‘A Rose for Emily.’

16. Producer/Product Analogies

Sheep : Wool :: Milk : Cow

As with others, the first analogy is simple:

Cow : Milk :: Beehive : Honey

The second sets up at simple (Producer/Product) but the second part asks the student to think (and know) more:

Cow: Milk :: Industrialism : _____

Clearly, these can be subjective but if you use this to your advantage (in a debate or discussion, or by asking the student to defend their choices, for example) that’s a good thing. You can also use a multiple-choice format to reduce some of this subjectivity if you need thinks nice and tidy in a lesson or assessment.

17. Noun/Adjective Analogies

Lemon : Yellow :: Snow : White

Flamingo : Pink :: Rhinoceros : Grey

Cardinal : Red :: Irony : ______

18. Task/Subtask Analogies

Kick : Soccer :: Dribble : Basketball

Plan : Prioritize :: Lead : Communicate

Drive : Steer :: Live : Breathe

19. Kinds Of Measurement Analogies

Vegetable Harvest : Bushels :: Liquid : Gallon

Geometric Shape : Degrees :: Marine Distance : Nautical Miles

City : Blocks :: Farms : Acres

20. Finish the Set or Sequence Analogies

Salt : Pepper :: Peas : Carrots

2 : 8 :: 5 : 20

21. Strength & Weakness Analogies

Lighthouse : Brightness :: Flashlight : Portability

Abundant Supply : Solar Energy :: Low Cost : Coal

Potential Profits : Capitalism :: ______ : Artificial Intelligence

Plastic : Pollution :: Greed : ______

22. Spatial Relationship (e.g., Geography) Analogies

South America : North America :: Ireland : ______

Floor : Ceiling :: Conclusion : Introduction

Peanut Butter : Bread :: Chapters : Book Covers

23. Increasing or Decreasing Intensity Analogies

Cool : Cold :: Warm : Hot

Aggressive : Fierce :: Amused : Elated

Instability : Turmoil :: Change : Revolution

Speed of Sound : Speed of Light :: ______ : Gammar Ray Bursts

24. Thing/Group Analogies (similar to Part/Whole Analogies)

Fish : School :: Lion : Pride

Flock : Birds :: Pack : Wolves

People : Community :: Tree : Forest

25. Rhyme Analogies

Jump : Bump :: Wire : Fire

Ship : Blip :: Stop : Lop

50 Examples Of Analogies For Critical Thinking