The psychology of stories

October 19th, 2010

On the Emily Rooney show today, I talked about stories: the story of “Mad Men,” the storytelling initiative at Central Square Theater, the stories drunken garden club ladies told a research psychologist back in 1976. (I’ll get a link up to the show as soon as possible.)

All these things — the kinds of stories we like to read, hear, or watch; the power of storytelling to build community and identity; the kinds of stories we tell about ourselves — are under the general umbrella of “narrative psychology.” For those of you who are interested, here are some recent articles of note on psychology and stories:

This study attempts to categorize people by their media preferences. The critiques in the comments are spot on: this is a very psychology-focused study, and disregards the whole field of media and communication research. Still, I do find it interesting — in my own dissertation, I tried to link up personality traits and reading preferences.

This New York Times article looks at recent research in how people tell the stories of their lives. We are willing to admit our faults, but need to believe we are continually improving.

Attempts to give an evolutionary explanation for storytelling are often embarrassingly bad stories themselves, but I liked this quite a bit.

This isn’t a study of narrative psychology per se, but of experimental philosophy. However, it’s about the use of stories to get at people’s moral intuitions (focusing more on the paradoxical nature of those intuitions than on the methodological problems of “trolleyology”).

Happy reading!


One Response to “The psychology of stories”

  1. Shulamuth on October 19, 2010 6:48 pm

    I’m with Terry Pratchett in believing we are not homo sapiens but pan narens — the storytelling ape.

    The stories we tell to join the facts of our lives can be as important as the individual facts in defining who we are. I also think style matters! Much of my life can serve as the plot for either soap opera or farce; when I opted for the comic interpretation I found I enjoyed it a lot more.

    Now off to read all your links — I did a little bit of research on narrative therapy about a decade back, at which point it was all tied in with deconstructionism. Must see how field has morphed!

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