September 02, 2014 Articles

Telling Stories to Reverse the Tide: How Minorities Change Majorities

We use narratives to categorize, organize, and interpret incomplete information

By Sidney K. Kanazawa and John G. McCabe

The Story—You’re Creating It Faster Than I Can Write It

In a windowless soundproof room, Jack lay dead with blood smeared across his chest. Moments earlier, a determined George had entered the room, and now a grim-faced George walked out of the room spattered with blood. A knife coated with blood slipped from George’s hand and dropped with hardly a sound. No one stopped him.

[You’ve already formulated a story about what happened in your head. You can picture the scene. You can see the characters. Right?]

George had cajoled Jack to enter the windowless room. He knew once inside the room, he could thrust a knife into Jack’s chest without restraint.

[You’re now fitting this new fact into the story you’ve instantly created to further support and expand your story. Correct?]

Obsessed with fast cars, beautiful women, fabulous restaurants, and exotic travel, George saw putting a knife in Jack’s chest as an opportunity to fund his lifestyle. He knew he had to do it. He relished the chance.

[You’re now adding these new facts to the George character you created at the beginning. True?]

After giving Jack time to think it over, Dr. George sat at his desk and watched Jack sign a release that allowed Dr. George, a world-class heart surgeon, to cut into Jack’s chest to perform a desperately needed heart bypass, despite Dr. George’s explanation to Jack that there was a very real risk of Jack dying during the surgery.

[Does this fit the story you told yourself, or do you have a new picture in your head?]

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now