The Secrets of Storytelling

Five year olds however pointed to the cow in the eld

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Unformatted text preview: in the barn— they had a hard time following the character’s thoughts to the cow in the field. Five-year-olds, however, pointed to the cow in the field, demonstrating theory of mind. Perhaps because theory of mind is so vital to social living, once we possess it we tend to imagine minds everywhere, making stories out of everything. A classic 1944 study by Fritz Heider and Mary-Ann Simmel, then at Smith College, elegantly demonstrated this tendency. The psy- FAST FACTS Once upon a Time 1>> 2>> Storytelling is a human universal, and common themes appear in tales throughout history and all over the the world. These characteristics of stories, and our natural affinity toward them, reveal clues about our evolutionary history and the roots of emotion and empathy in the mind. By studying narrative’s power to influence beliefs, researchers are discovering how we analyze information and accept new ideas. 3>> 48 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND Au gu s t / S e p te m b e r 2 0 0 8 P R E C E D I N G PAG E S : H A R R Y G I G L I O j u p i t e r i m a g e s ; T H I S PAG E : J O R G E N S C H Y T T E P e t e r A r n o l d , I n c . However narrative is defined, people know it when they feel it. Whether fiction or nonfiction, a narrative engages its audience through psychological realism — recognizable emotions and believable interactions among characters. “Everyone has a natural detector for psychological realism,” says Raymond A. Mar, assistant professor of psychology at York University in Toronto. “We can tell when something rings false.” But the best stories — those retold through generations and translated into other languages — do more than simply present a believable picture. These tales captivate their audience, whose emotions can be inextricably tied to those of the story’s characters. Such immersion is a state psychologists call “narrative transport.” Researchers have only begun teasing out the relations among the variables that can initiate am narrative transport. A 2004 study by na psychologist Mela...
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This note was uploaded on 10/22/2010 for the course WPC 301 taught by Professor Burns during the Fall '08 term at ASU.

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