To weave data-driven ideas effectively into a story, we must first simplify complicated concepts and leverage the power of analogies.
Psychologists have identified that asking your audience to process a great deal of raw data, statistics, or complex information is cognitively challenging, and you risk diluting the impact of your message to mental fatigue. Instead, consider using insights that psychologists, cognitive scientists, and political scientists have learned about the power of analogy.
Analogies compare two different things and look for similarities between them. They help the brain make enormously efficient use of mental processing power and are more likely to result in the retention of information. Why?
- Neurons that fire together, wire together. Every experience triggers the approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain that form our neural network. When you repeat an experience, the brain learns to activate the same neurons and pathways previously formed. This makes using the existing neural “highway system” more efficient. Using an analogy your audience is familiar with makes the new data more manageable and quicker to comprehend and retain.
- Our brains are hardwired to apply patterns successfully used in the past to solve problems in the present. When our brains face complexity, like new data, analogy provides a pattern that the brain latches onto to simplify solving and categorizing the newly acquired information.
Analogies help us simplify and clarify the points we’re trying to make. They enable an audience to quickly relate to the data we’re presenting, helping to make our message more impactful.