Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Storytelling


Storytelling is a human universal. From gathering around the camp-fire telling tales of ancestors to watching the latest television box-set, humans are inveterate producers and consumers of stories. Despite its ubiquity, little attention has been given to understanding the function and evolution of storytelling. Here we explore the impact of storytelling on hunter-gatherer cooperative behaviour and the individual-level fitness benefits to being a skilled storyteller. Stories told by the Agta, a Filipino hunter-gatherer population, convey messages relevant to coordinating behaviour in a foraging ecology, such as cooperation, sex equality and egalitarianism. These themes are present in narratives from other foraging societies. We also show that the presence of good storytellers is associated with increased cooperation. In return, skilled storytellers are preferred social partners and have greater reproductive success, providing a pathway by which group-beneficial behaviours, such as storytelling, can evolve via individual-level selection. We conclude that one of the adaptive functions of storytelling among hunter gatherers may be to organise cooperation.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Natural selection, Human behavior, Human evolution, Fitness, Egalitarianism, Storytelling


Although storytelling often has negative connotations within science, narrative formats of communication should not be disregarded when communicating science to nonexpert audiences. Narratives offer increased comprehension, interest, and engagement. Nonexperts get most of their science information from mass media content, which is itself already biased toward narrative formats. Narratives are also intrinsically persuasive, which offers science communicators tactics for persuading otherwise resistant audiences, although such use also raises ethical considerations. Future intersections of narrative research with ongoing discussions in science communication are introduced.

Concepts: Communication, Media, Public relations, Narrative, Broadcasting, Media studies, Graphic communication, Storytelling


For millennia, adults have told children stories not only to entertain but also to impart important moral lessons to promote prosocial behaviors. Many such stories contain anthropomorphized animals because it is believed that children learn from anthropomorphic stories as effectively, if not better than, from stories with human characters, and thus are more inclined to act according to the moral lessons of the stories. Here we experimentally tested this belief by reading preschoolers a sharing story with either human characters or anthropomorphized animal characters. Reading the human story significantly increased preschoolers' altruistic giving but reading the anthropomorphic story or a control story decreased it. Thus, contrary to the common belief, realistic stories, not anthropomorphic ones, are better for promoting young children’s prosocial behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Animal, Behavior, Human behavior, Morality, Aesop's Fables, Anthropomorphism, Storytelling


There is a growing recognition that patient engagement is necessary for the cultivation of patient- and family-centered care (PFCC) in the hospital setting. Acting on the emerging understanding that hearing stories from our patients gives valuable insight about our ability to provide compassionate PFCC, we developed an educational patient experience curriculum at our acute care teaching hospital.

Concepts: Patient, Hospital, Education, Physician, Curriculum, Curriculum studies, Short story, Storytelling


Many clinicians may feel poorly prepared to manage patient suffering resulting from the travails of chronic illness. This essay explores the thesis that chronically and terminally ill patients can be holistically healed by transcending the suffering occasioned by the degradations of their illnesses. Suffering is conveyed as a story and clinicians can encourage healing by co-constructing patients' illness stories. By addressing the inevitable existential conflicts uncovered in patients' narratives and helping them edit their stories to promote acceptance and meaning, suffering can be transcended. This requires that clinicians be skilled in narrative medicine and open to engaging the patient’s existential concerns. By helping patients transcend their suffering, clinicians claim their heritage as healers.

Concepts: Medicine, Medical terms, Patient, Hospital, Illness, Narrative, Short story, Storytelling


It is said that we lose track of time - that “time flies” - when we are engrossed in a story. How does engagement with the story cause this distorted perception of time, and what are its neural correlates? People commit both time and attentional resources to an engaging stimulus. For narrative videos, attentional engagement can be represented as the level of similarity between the electroencephalographic responses of different viewers. Here we show that this measure of neural engagement predicted the duration of time that viewers were willing to commit to narrative videos. Contrary to popular wisdom, engagement did not distort the average perception of time duration. Rather, more similar brain responses resulted in a more uniform perception of time across viewers. These findings suggest that by capturing the attention of an audience, narrative videos bring both neural processing and the subjective perception of time into synchrony.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Neuroscience, Cognition, Perception, Unsolved problems in neuroscience, Narrative, Storytelling


Health promotion and salutogenesis are embodied in people’s everyday lives and in their stories. The assumptions of these scientific theories are similar to Gramsci’s theory for better wellbeing in a community, where praxis and capacity building for reflective practice is the way forward for an equal global change. By explaining the road for transformation through narratives, particularly fables, Gramsci manages to reach people from all walks of life, from academics to children. One of these fables, the mouse and the mountain, is here presented as a trigger to health promotion action and as a metaphor for salutogenic thinking. The narrative paradigm for health promotion is the context within which the analogies among ‘the mouse’s plan’, health promotion theory, the salutogenic model, empowerment as well as the practitioners' opinions and experience are discussed and presented. In so doing, a ‘storytelling bridge’ is created between academics, practitioners and other stakeholders from the health, social and pedagogical arenas in knowledge construction environments. Hence, the article confers the possible contribution of Gramsci’s educational perspective within health promotion by presenting a practical example of the use of narratives for capacity building. This is described through the interpretation of the same story in a hypothetical speech told by different storytellers, communicating their personal vision of the mouse’s plan and so create a narrative-centered health promotion communication for meaning-making and for embracing theories among scholars and practitioners.

Concepts: Scientific method, Management, Academia, Philosophy of science, Theory, Narrative, Storytelling, Mental structures


The concept of ‘narrative economies’ has recently been proposed as a set of exchange relationships that, through biography and story-telling, facilitate access to resources and act as a source of value. We utilise this concept to inform our analysis of 18 qualitative interviews with five people with dementia and four informal carers. Our participants are members of a pre-existing group of dementia advocates, representing the voices of those living with the condition. There are a growing number of people in the early stages of dementia - like our participants - being called upon to account for their experience, as a means of developing a politicised ‘collective illness identity’. These interviews present an opportunity to study a group of people who are actively involved in speaking as, and for, people with dementia. Four themes emerged from the data: becoming a voice of or for people with dementia; biographical reinforcement; responsibilisation; and resistance. These themes illustrate the ways in which people with dementia participate in their own identity construction and, as representatives of those living with dementia, they also illustrate the ways in which illness narratives produce material and symbolic value.

Concepts: Investment, Social sciences, Semiotics, Narrative, Plot, Style, Storytelling, Organizational storytelling


The study of illness narratives is based on the premise that stories are told for a reason and storytellers make narrative decisions on what to include and leave out of a story, the style of narration, the place where the story is told and the audience. Through this narrative work, they situate themselves in particular ways and make sense of the illness and the world around them. In this article, we explore the disnarrated, a style of narration that features events that do not happen, but are nonetheless referred to in the story. The aim of the article is to illustrate the additional layers of meaning that can be uncovered from illness stories when attention is paid to what did not happen, but, yet, is still part of the story. We draw from a qualitative study carried out with 17 parents whose children were diagnosed with cancer and were receiving medical care in Argentina. We carried out narrative interviews with the parents and participant-observation in hospital areas and the hotels where they resided during treatment. The analysis of the interview transcripts was carried out using a holistic understanding of the narratives and focusing on the identification of themes that appeared disnarrated. The fieldnotes from the observations were used to contextualize the narrative analysis. The disnarrated, in its many manifestations, produced a layer of analysis of parents' stories of treatment patterned by parents' desires, hopes and fears. The disnarrated was used by parents to discuss alternative care trajectories and express fears regarding what the future would bring for the child and family. The disnarrated is a useful analytical tool for examining illness stories as it points to storytellers' views of what is acceptable or desirable in their world and their hopes and preferences for alternative realities.

Concepts: Health care, Narrative, Narratology, Style, Narrator, Narrative mode, Storytelling, Organizational storytelling


Previous research has highlighted that deaf children acquiring spoken English have difficulties in narrative development relative to their hearing peers both in terms of macro-structure and with micro-structural devices. The majority of previous research focused on narrative tasks designed for hearing children that depend on good receptive language skills. The current study compared narratives of 6 to 11-year-old deaf children who use spoken English (N=59) with matched for age and non-verbal intelligence hearing peers. To examine the role of general language abilities, single word vocabulary was also assessed. Narratives were elicited by the retelling of a story presented non-verbally in video format. Results showed that deaf and hearing children had equivalent macro-structure skills, but the deaf group showed poorer performance on micro-structural components. Furthermore, the deaf group gave less detailed responses to inferencing probe questions indicating poorer understanding of the story’s underlying message. For deaf children, micro-level devices most strongly correlated with the vocabulary measure. These findings suggest that deaf children, despite spoken language delays, are able to convey the main elements of content and structure in narrative but have greater difficulty in using grammatical devices more dependent on finer linguistic and pragmatic skills.

Concepts: Linguistics, Language, Social sciences, Semiotics, Narrative, Style, Natural language, Storytelling