Storytelling LO1218

David E. Birren, MB/5, 608.267.2442 (
Mon, 15 May 1995 09:50 CST

Replying to LO1200:

Jom Michmerhuizen writes regarding storytelling and "case histories":

>...if we strip the context and nomenclature, don't they start looking a lot
>alike? Logically, structurally, like that.

I'd say that case histories are stories about real-world events that are
intended to teach general truths or principles, just as storytelling in
the broader sense is also for teaching (via sharing) generalized truths
and wisdom.

>Maybe it's just me. I've been much preoccupied with the question how
>stories can contain wisdom. If we're given two storytellers, we can
>listen to them for a while and perhaps find one better than the other in
>some humanly critical attribute. Is this because one has a better set of

I don't think it's just you, Jim. Storytelling gets the listener (and
perhaps the teller, too) away from his ordinary personal context, thus
setting up a mechanism for bypassing the usual perceptual filters. This
allows deeper meanings to get through, the ones that are normally filtered
out by our attitudes, values, feelings, etc. An interesting story
captures the listener's attention and engages her own learning heuristics,
making it a powerful method. People can learn in different ways;
storytelling/case history is just one.

(By the way, I have been a critic of using case histories because by
focusing on only one situation they don't lend themselves to
generalization. I like to drill right down to the core principle. This
thread on storytelling and, I might add, your message quoted above, has
helped open my thinking on this.)

David E. Birren						Phone: (608)267-2442
Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources			Fax:   (608)267-3579
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