Our Brains Naturally Frame Events As Stories

"Stories are efficient summaries of reality, but that isn't all they are. Stories have an arc, they put constraints on the future - when you've heard the first half there are some things which are more likely in the second, and some less. I'm sure our minds use stories because they describe the way the world is AND because they say something about how the world could or will be."

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Stafford, psychologist at the University of Sheffield and author of The Narrative Escape.  See the rest of our conversation about our brains' narrative habit at the 40k blog.


  1. That's a fascinating article. Today I just wrote about my first larp experience and how it helped me to see stories in a whole new way by living them in a fantasy setting. By retelling those stories, I realized I was practicing writing skills. Being "someone else" also helped me build self-confidence by having a "safe" environment to practice interpersonal skills.

    Interesting how your joint article is almost taking those skills in the other direction. Knowing how stories work to take charge of our actions and look at what might happen with each decision in real life.

    I'd love to see you do a followup article looking at how roleplaying games might fit it with the narrative escape. I know what roleplaying has done for me, but I'd like to know more about the science behind it.


  2. Wow - just, wow!

    @Nick - ditto!

  3. Hi Livia

    I am concluding a conversation you started somewhere on Amazon where you took me to task for being critical about Kindle in the Review section.

    After a much hassle I have finally been able to read The Narrative Escape, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    I went back to Amazon to leave a review (very brief because I am now tired!), and found that Amazon have deleted my original review. It also seems that I have been blacklisted, because my review resulted in this message "Thanks! Your review is being processed. Your review will be posted on the site, typically within 48 hours." As I gave The Narrative Escape 5 *s and said nothing about how horrible Kindle is (it won't even let you copy a bit of text to quote in a review), they will probably give it the green light.

  4. twaza -- Thanks for dropping by and for the update. I'm glad you enjoyed the essay and finally figured out the kindle issues. I'm sure Tom will appreciate your review. BTW, I also find that my reveiews get kept for moderation, so perhaps it's just their protocol. That, or I'm also blacklisted and don't know it :-)