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Saturday, February 23, 2013

What' the Story Morning Glory?

Dear Colleagues:

I continue to wrestle with the potential strengths and weaknesses of narrative persuasion techniques, and thought I would share some of the most recent stuff I've been reading in that area. I've been concentrating on the power of narrative as an alternative, or supplement, to traditional rhetorical techniques. Most of us are steeped in rhetorical persuasion, and the arguments for it, going back to Aristotle and beyond, have been well documented. The impact of rhetorical persuasive vehicles is well documented, along with the shortcomings. In fact, much of the social science research concerning persuasion has dealt with rhetoric. I want to share some stuff that I have been reading about narrative persuasion to perhaps open your mind to alternative modes of thought.

The source of these ideas comes from an excellent post :  http://www.thejuryexpert.com/wp-content/uploads/MazzoccoGreenTJEMay2011.pdf.  I recommend it to you when you have the time to read it. 

This article identifies six specific parts found in persuasive stories. They are:


You can arrange these in a variety of ways, but I have listed them in this fashion because it correlates to the courtroom. We usually begin with the audience (jury/judge) in choosing our stories, we structure them to have a logical flow (think rhetoric here), we use imagery to create a world, realism to create acceptance of our world (of course every world has a certain view), context explains the relevance of the story, and delivery encompasses the other sections while also making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Stories impact our beliefs and opinions at an emotional level. While rhetoric is effective to move the audience at the level of logical persuasion, emotional movement is also needed if we are going to change beliefs or opinions. Think about that for a moment, the story opens the emotional door and the rhetoric opens the logical door. Both must be open to effectively  persuade.

If you are interested in this idea at a deeper level, take a look at the following pieces by Walter Fisher.  Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value and Action. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, xii. (1989).

Oh well, back to reading!


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