Narrative

October 27, 2019 — December 23, 2023

Figure 1

How and why narrative affects us. Leveraged in, for example, gamification and in empathy.

To read: papers on whether narrative can improve empathy (Johnson, Huffman, and Jasper 2014; Bormann and Greitemeyer 2015; Oatley 2016; Kidd and Castano 2013).

1 Incoming

Michele Weldon, Your Brain on Story.

Paul Zak, How Stories Change the Brain.

Carol Clark, A novel look at how stories may change the brain.

Malka Older’s concept of Narrative disorder.

Jon Stokes, The Feed & The Tokenization of Reality is a nice hypothesis. Byrne Hobart summarizes:

This is a very interesting refinement of the filter bubble thesis—it’s not just what you read, but the order in which you encounter things.… Since there are plenty of things that are more interesting when they’re taken out of context, there’s continuous selection against context in any popularity-weighted feed.

Cate Hall, Are we all the heroes of our own stories?.

Uncle, You Don’t Make Sense.

Surfing Complexity, If you can’t tell a story about it, it isn’t real

Matt Haig on books as entertainment:

At age 11, most boys enjoy reading. By 14 that drops from 65% to 32%. In other words we lose half of male readers in three years. And many of them won’t return. Does it matter? Should boys (and men) read? I don’t know. Reading fiction is known to enhance mental health and job prospects and increase empathy. It helps with concentration and has even been proven to aid sleep.

But these reasons aren’t going to sway a 14 year old boy.

In fact I think this is the problem. Books are perceived unlike other cultural forms. There is a do-goody earnestness to the way the culture of books increasingly presents itself.

You only have to look at the whole recent Roald Dahl re-edit farce. A farce that was not at all about gen z wokery and more about corporate greed and timidity. Roald Dahl is a writer who relished nastiness. And now there is a worry among the old people in charge of the Roald Dahl cash cow that generation x don’t want their generation z offspring to read nasty things because books are there to DO US GOOD.

Young people in general like risky things. Their prefrontal cortex is yet to fully develop so they have a shitload of imagination and zero caution.

The trouble is that the rest of the media industries teenage boys encounter—video games, movies, YouTube etc—don’t have this misguided do-goody earnestness to them. In contrast, the children’s book industry seems almost entirely one big prefrontal cortex. V big on caution but not very big on risk and impulsive imagination. The kind of things teens like. Ironically an industry which painfully tries to hide its white middle class private school heart, often ends up looking like the classic do goody prefect trying to help put the world to rights in a wholly simplistic and arrogant 1980s-Blue-Peter-appeal kind of way.

I live with two teenagers. Even our daughter struggles sometimes to find books that aren’t ‘too school teacherly’.

If we want all kids to keep reading we need to see books as another entertainment form. Not something there to engineer the present or correct history any more than a rap or rock album or GTA 5 should. But there to be brave and alive and sometimes a little bit dangerous.

Daniel Langer, Are the most expensive champagnes priced too low? How to supercharge your brand’s desirability

[…] luxury brands are masters of storytelling. They create powerful narratives that make their values tangible, far beyond heritage, craftsmanship, or quality. These stories help consumers connect with the brand on a deeper level and justify the high price points. The stories often evoke a sense of cultural connection or artistic expression.

Very narratively-forward way of marketing his own opions about narrative and Veblen goods.

2 References

Berns, Blaine, Prietula, et al. 2013. Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.” Brain Connectivity.
Bormann, and Greitemeyer. 2015. Immersed in Virtual Worlds and Minds: Effects of In-Game Storytelling on Immersion, Need Satisfaction, and Affective Theory of Mind.” Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Johnson, Huffman, and Jasper. 2014. Changing Race Boundary Perception by Reading Narrative Fiction.” Basic and Applied Social Psychology.
Kidd, and Castano. 2013. Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.” Science.
Leong. 2018. The Role of Narratives in Sociohydrological Models of Flood Behaviors.” Water Resources Research.
Oatley. 2016. Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
Reagan, Mitchell, Kiley, et al. 2016. The Emotional Arcs of Stories Are Dominated by Six Basic Shapes.” EPJ Data Science.