ScienceAlert.com August 25, 2019
A team of consumer psychology researchers at Northwestern University have been investigating whether stories help convince people of facts, or have the opposite effect.
Three experiments suggest that storytelling makes the ‘weaker’ facts easier to swallow and the strongest arguments significantly harder.
In other words, storytelling might actually dilute strong facts while bolstering weak ones. In the modern world, where ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ are spreading like never before, this is an interesting insight into how anecdotes can undermine reality.
“Knowing that stories may provide the most persuasive benefit to those with the least compelling arguments could be important given concerns about ‘fake news,'” suggests Krause.
“But this does not mean a story is indicative of weak facts. Rather, when you feel especially compelled by a great story you might want to give more thought and consideration to the facts to determine how good they are.”
One important limitation worth nothing in this study is that none of the facts offered up were already notably polarising or controversial in society. The authors note that when it comes to more heated issues (for example, climate change) stories may play a different role.
The findings are published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.