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What’s so Special about Stories? A Review of the Relevant Cognition Literature. Russell J. Branaghan Department of Applied Psychology Arizona State University Mesa, AZ russ.branaghan@asu.edu. Purpose of the Presentation.

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what s so special about stories a review of the relevant cognition literature

What’s so Special about Stories? A Review of the Relevant Cognition Literature

Russell J. BranaghanDepartment of Applied PsychologyArizona State UniversityMesa, AZ


purpose of the presentation
Purpose of the Presentation
  • Review the existing cognitive psychology literature to suggest some possible sources of storytelling’s advantages in learning
  • Discuss some ways to evaluate each of these suggestions
story based instruction
Story Based Instruction
  • Case Based
    • Uses examples of specific situations in real world context to tell a relevant, timelystory
    • Often includes quotes from the characters
    • Student actively, and often collaboratively, solves a problem
      • Discussion of related problems, leading to generalization
      • Provides practice in problem solving and analysis
      • Conflict creates emotional engagement
    • Instructor facilitates
story based instruction4
Story Based Instruction
  • Scenario Based
    • Learning takes place within a context, including a social context
    • Learning occurs as a component of authenticactivities
  • Problem Based
    • Problems are selected so learners gain appropriate knowledge, strategies, and team participation skills.
    • The goal is to replicate the problem solving that one achieves in their career
    • The instructor facilitates, becoming a resource, tutor, and evaluator
story based instruction5
Story Based Instruction
  • Narrative Based Learning
    • Student may be as the main character in a story, and presented with problems to solve
  • Situated Learning
    • Knowledge needs to be presented in an authentic context, (i.e., settings and problems that would involve that knowledge)
    • Learning is often unintentional rather than deliberate
    • Emphasizes active perception over concepts and representation
    • Emphasizes social interaction and collaboration.
  • Attention is limited and selective
  • Monitor stimuli continuously
    • Cocktail party effect
    • Obligatory cues
  • Selective attention cues
    • Tone
    • Pace of speech
    • Volume
    • Semantics
  • The semantic context may guide attention
  • Activity and collaboration may increase vigilance
  • Engagement is maintained through story pacing and pausing. This may direct attention to the salience of key points
  • The memories that stay with us are those that were experienced in a state of emotional excitement
    • Excitement is caused by a surge of excitatory neurotransmitters and brain activity
    • Evolutionarily very useful
  • Emotions that are elicited in stories may assist in encoding
  • Emotions
    • Anticipation
    • Anger
    • Joy
    • Relief
    • Surprise
    • Sadness
    • Disgust
    • Fear
  • Active engagement facilitates these emotions and storage
  • Context and collaboration can make the stories personal
levels of processing
Levels of Processing
  • Stimuli can be processed in various ways
    • Physical characteristics (sensory processes)
    • Semantic characteristics (previous knowledge)
  • Craik and Lockhart (1972) suggested a continuum of deeper and deeper processing
    • As the analysis and processing goes deeper it requires more background information to carry out
    • For example, it requires more background knowledge to carry out a semantic analysis of a word than an acoustic analysis of that word
levels of processing13
Levels of Processing
  • Implications (Craik, 1979)
    • Semantic analysis yields deeper processing
    • Deeper processing yields more durable memory
    • Memory durability is largely independent of processing time
  • Some evidence (Jacoby, Craik & Begg, 1979)
    • Showed Ss pairs of common nouns (e.g. horse goat) and were told to evaluate the difference in their sizes on a 1 to 10 scale.
    • An unexpected memory test showed and inverse relationship between the size of the difference of the nouns and the likelihood of their recall.
    • Ss were likely to recall the pair when the size difference was small.
levels of processing14
Levels of Processing
  • Increased real-world context may yield deeper semantic analysis
  • Collaboration and explaining to others via analogy, etc. may yield deeper processing
  • Activity and engagement may yield more elaboration
Context refers to the other stimuli that have been presented in more or less the same time frame.

It sets the stage for top-down processing

Light and Carter-Sobell (1970) showed Ss sentences in which certain word pairs were emphasized (e.g. the boy earned a GOOD GRADE on the test)

Then they were given a test asking them to recognize the emphasized noun but not the adjective.

  • State dependent learning - people show less forgetting if retrieval and learning occur in the same physiological state. This effect holds particularly true for recall (Eich, 1980)
  • Encoding specificity (Tulving, 1979) - a cue aids retrieval when it provides information that had been processed during the encoding
  • Mood congruent memory (Bower, 1981) - people are better at recalling information when they are in the same mood as when they learned it
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic context (Baddeley, 1982)
  • Effects of titles on understanding
    • Bransford and Johnson showed Ss an ambiguous passage of text. In one condition the text was preceded with a clarifying cartoon. In another condition the cartoon was shown after reading the text
    • Ss who saw the cartoon before hand outperformed those who saw it after
    • Also those who saw the clarifying cartoon after reading the text performed no better than Ss who saw no cartoon at all.
  • Maybe active engagement produces similar conditions between learning context and retrieval (performance) context
  • This would illustrate encoding specificity
  • Story context may be similar to performance context thus improving performance
  • Maybe context aids in getting the gist
knowledge structures mental models
Knowledge Structures / Mental Models
  • Organizing structures or representations of reality that people use to understand the world
  • These models provide predictive and explanatory power for understanding the interaction (Norman, in Gentner & Stevens, 1983)
  • Basic structure of cognition - "It is now plausible to suppose that mental models play a central and unifying role in representing objects, states of affairs, sequences of events, the way the world is, and the social and psychological actions of daily life." (Johnson-Laird, 1983).
  • Schumacher & Czerwinski (1992) point out that they:
    • Are incomplete and constantly evolving
    • Are usually not accurate, containing errors and contradictions
    • Are parsimonious, providing simplified explanations
    • Often contain measures of uncertainty about their validity
knowledge structures mental models20
Knowledge Structures / Mental Models
  • Bartlett proposed the schemas after asking Ss to recall stories. Subjects made intrusion errors, adding details that were not actually present
  • He suggested that memory uses a mental framework for understanding and remembering
  • Bransford & Franks (1971) showed Ss pictures and asked them questions about what the story depicted. People remembered different details depending upon the nature of the picture.
  • Basis for elaboration theory (Reigeluth, 1992).
knowledge structures mental models21
Knowledge Structures / Mental Models
  • The context of stories likely guide our selection of knowledge structures for interpretation
  • We have pre-made scripts and schemas with which to interpret stories and guide our knowledge acquisition
so what s so special about stories23
So, What’s so Special about Stories?
  • The likely suspects
  • Fruitful lines of investigation
    • Is there a story superiority effect involved in comprehension?
    • Effects of expectation
    • Are there negative aspects to story telling?
      • Distortion
      • Confusion with other stories?
      • Jumping to conclusions?
      • Focus on surface characteristics?
  • Baddeley, A. D. (1982). Domains of recollection. Psychological Review, 89, 708-729.
  • Bartlett, F.C. (1932). Remembering: An Experimental and Social Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bartlett, F.C. (1958). Thinking. New York: Basic Books.
  • Bower, G. (1981). Mood and memory. American Psychologist, 36, 129-148.
  • Bransford, J.D. & Franks, J.J. (1971). The abstraction of linguistic ideas. Cognitive Psychology, 2, 331-350.
  • Bransford, J. D., & Johnson, M. K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for understanding: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 717-726.
  • Craik, F.I.M. (1979). Human memory. Annual Review of Psychology, 30, 63-102.
  • Craik, F.I.M., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 671-684.
  • Eich, J. E. (1980). The cue-dependent nature of state-dependent retrieval. Memory and Cognition, 8, 7-73.
  • Gentner, D. & Stevens, A.(1983). Mental Models. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Jacoby, L. L., Craik, F.I.M., & Begg, I. (1979). Effects of decision difficulty on recognition and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 18, 585-600.
  • Johnson-Laird, P. (1983). Mental Models. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Kelly, G. (1995). Principles of Personal Construct Psychology. Norton.
  • Light, L., & Carter-Sobell, L. (1970). Effects of changed semantic context on recognition memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 9, 1-11.
  • Reigeluth, C. (1992). Elaborating the elaboration theory. Educational Technology Research & Development, 40 (3), 80-86
  • Schumacher, R. & Czerwinski, M. (1992). Mental models and the acquisition of expert knowledge. In R. Hoffman (ed.), The psychology of expertise. New York: Springer-Verlag.
  • Tulving, E (1979). Relation between encoding specificity and levels of processing. In L. S. Cermak & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Levels of processing in human memory. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.