The Secrets of Storytelling

Studies such as these suggest people accept ideas

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Unformatted text preview: arrative records of their most basic needs: food, reproduction and social status. ads that encouraged viewers to think about the arguments for a product. Similarly, Green co-authored a 2006 study that showed that labeling information as “fact” increased critical analysis, whereas labeling information as “fiction” had the opposite effect. Studies such as these suggest people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set. Works of fiction may even have unexpected real-world effects on people’s choices. Merlot was one of the most popular red wines among Americans until the 2005 fi lm Sideways depicted actor Paul Giamatti as an ornery wine lover who snubbed it as a common, inferior wine. Winemakers saw a noticeable drop in sales of the red wine that year, particularly after S ideways garnered national attention through several Oscar nominations. As researchers continue to investigate storytelling’s power and pervasiveness, they are also looking for ways to harness that power. Some such as Green are studying how stories can have applications in promoting positive health messages. “A lot of problems are behaviorally based,” Green says, pointing to research documenting the influence of Hollywood films on smoking habits among teens. And Mar and Oatley want to further examine how stories can enhance social skills by acting as simulators for the brain, which may turn the idea of the socially crippled bookworm on its head. One thing is clear— although research on stories has only just begun, it has already turned up a wealth of information about the social roots of the human mind— and, in science, that’s a happy ending. M (Further Reading) ◆ Why Fiction May Be Twice as True as Fact: Fiction as Cogni- ◆ Happily Ever After The power of stories does not stop with their ability to reveal the workings of our minds. Narrative is also a potent persuasive tool, according to Hogan and other researchers, and it has the ability to shape beliefs and change minds. Advertisers have long taken advantage of narrative persuasiveness by sprinkling likable characters or funny stories into their commercials. A 2007 study by marketing researcher Jennifer Edson Escalas of Vanderbilt University found that a test audience responded more positively to advertisements in narrative form as compared with straightforward ◆ ◆ ◆ tive and Emotional Simulation. Keith Oatley in Review of General Psychology, Vol. 3, No. 2, pages 101–117; June 1999. The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion. Patrick Colm Hogan. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Transportation into Narrative Worlds: The Role of Prior Knowledge and Perceived Realism. Melanie C. Green in Discourse Processes, Vol. 38, No. 2, pages 247–266; 2004. The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative. Edited by Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson. Northwestern University Press, 2005. Detecting Agency from the Biological Motion of Veridical vs Animated Agents. R. A. Mar, W. M. Kelley, T. F. Heatherton and C. N. Macrae in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Vol. 2, No. 3, pages 199–205; September 2007. w w w. S c i A m M in d .c o m SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND 51...
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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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