In everyday experience people frequently encounter situations in which they must give instructions to others. Often, this requires describing some novel object or situation to the other, a task that may be facilitated by the use of analogies. In this study, subject pairs work together to build simple models, with one party giving directions to the other person, who builds the actual models. Analogies prove useful in completing this task by helping to make novel information easier to comprehend, and by doing so more economically than literal descriptions. Analogies were used frequently by both those subjects who were giving the directions (as descriptions) and those who were receiving direction (as questions). The use of analogies in this situation provides some understanding of the role figurative language plays in the process of collaboration, whereby participants in a conversation work together to establish mutual understanding.
Boerger, Michael A. and Henley, Tracy B.
"The Use of Analogy in Giving Instructions,"
The Psychological Record:
2, Article 2.
Available at: http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/tpr/vol49/iss2/2