What is a Narrative?

Publish Date
Principles Series
Last Edit
Apr 3, 2022 01:47 PM
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One framework to view the world is that many ideas often get wrapped together into narratives. Functionally, this works like memes, where an idea is compressed into an easy-to-share thought. A narrative basically puts a framework and a story behind ideas.
Let’s take an example before going into why this matters. One broad one that you may hear used is “the oppression narrative.” The “oppression narrative” is mainly used to refer to the ideas often presented by the political left that tells the tale of this country primarily based on who and how a privileged group (white men) oppressed others.
A few key points here: the use of “[fill-in-the-blank] narrative” is most often used in critique because narratives are inherently unscientific and present the idea that you are being sold a story. In the case of oppression, proponents of the oppression narrative would be more likely to present it as theory or fact. Indeed, here’s a case of the left referring to the ‘Oppression of White America’ as a narrative.
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Yet, our brains evolved to relate and understand stories, which makes narratives uniquely powerful to entrenching certain ideas. A mountain of evidence shows time and again that stories work better to convince us than facts or statistics do. So it’s no surprise that they are often used in order to peddle ideas.
Unfortunately, because our brains relate so heavily to them, we can often confuse them for actual evidence. More research has shown that this goes even further: we tend to ignore evidence that counters held narratives and seek ways to fit new topics into previously held narratives.
You can imagine why this might create problems. Principally, two people with conflicting narratives will have an incredibly hard time seeing the other perspective. But more to come next time!