10.6 Association Analogies: Definition & Types

Jan 15, 2020 | Cognitive Psychology, Courses, ch10 Mental Organisation of Knowledge

Association analogies are the most common analogies found on tests. There are four different kinds and in this lesson, we will cover the definition and main types of association analogies.


Association analogies are common on entrance exams such as the MAT, GRE, and SAT. On the MAT, they represent the largest group of analogies presented on the exam. An analogy is a comparison and analysis between ideas or objects. In this lesson, we will cover the definition and form of an association analogy as well as the four types of association analogy that may be presented on an exam.

Association Analogy: Definition and Form

Association analogies deal directly with the relationship between two concepts. Four types of association analogies exist: object to characteristic, cause and effect, function, and sequential order. Others may exist, but these are the most common seen on exams.

An association analogy uses the traditional analogy form, which looks like this: A : B :: C : D. An analogy is read as ‘A is to B as C is to D’. The connection between terms ‘A and B’, and ‘C and D’ are equivalent to one another.


Object to Characteristic

An object to characteristic analogy examines the relationship between an object and a defining quality of the object. For example, if the object is a book, the characteristic may be paper. When presented with an object to characteristic association analogy, the comparisons on both sides of the double colons have an object and a characteristic.

When evaluating this type of analogy, it is important to discern what type of characteristic is presented. The characteristic could be physical, intrinsic, or abstract, among other possibilities. For example, an association analogy may look like this:


J.K. Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter series and Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451. On an exam, one of the terms would be missing and you would have to figure out the relationship between the terms to find the best answer.

Cause and Effect

An association analogy that uses cause and effect pairs two objects or ideas together with one term leading to the formation of the other object. Here is an example:


In both cases, the first term is the reason for the second term. A tornado causes destruction and a hurricane causes flooding.


An association analogy that looks at function shows the objective or purpose of a term. For example, the function of a persuasive essay is to argue or persuade. Here is an example of an association analogy using function to connect the ideas:


Sequential Order

The sequential order association analogy may be the easiest analogy type to identify, and yet the most difficult to answer because the test taker must possess certain knowledge to pinpoint the correct answer. A sequential order analogy positions two terms together that are related by time. Oftentimes, one term occurs before or after the other term. Here is an example:


U.S. president George Washington came before Abraham Lincoln and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair came before David Cameron. Sequential order analogies may look at the relationships between historical, geological, artistic, scientific, or popular culture subjects.

Lesson Summary

Association analogies examine the conceptual relationships between two sets of terms. Object to characteristic, cause and effect, function, and sequential order are four subtypes of the association analogy. When identifying the relationship between the two sets of terms, the reader must decide how to relationship between each set is parallel to one another.

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