Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 609–619 | Cite as

Analogies in medicine: valuable for learning, reasoning, remembering and naming

  • Gil Patrus PenaEmail author
  • José de Souza Andrade-Filho


Analogies are important tools in human reasoning and learning, for resolving problems and providing arguments, and are extensively used in medicine. Analogy and similarity involve a structural alignment or mapping between domains. This cognitive mechanism can be used to make inferences and learn new abstractions. Through analogies, we try to explain a knowledge to be achieved (the target), with pieces of information already familiar to the learner (the source), keeping in mind the constraints of similarity, structure and purpose. The purpose of this essay is to examine the use of analogies in medicine. We provide a brief review of the theoretical basis of analogical reasoning. This theoretical background is discussed in the light of actual examples of analogies retrieved from medical literature. In medicine, analogies have long been used to explain several physiologic and pathologic processes. Besides deeper structural relations, superficial attribute similarity is extensively used in many medical specialties. These attribute similarities are important in naming, categorizing and classifying, and play a role as learning and memorizing tools. Analogies also serve as basis for medical nomenclature. The choice of the source of analogies is highly dependent on cultural background, and may derive from ancient or diverse cultures. Learning by analogies may thus require research on culture diversity in order to establish an adequate justification and to comprehend the purpose of an analogy.


Education Medical Analogy Metaphor 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gil Patrus Pena
    • 1
    Email author
  • José de Souza Andrade-Filho
    • 1
  1. 1.Serviço de Anatomia PatológicaHospital Felício RochoBelo HorizonteBrazil

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