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Morning Feature: Sticky Ideas, Part II – Tell Me a Story

October 15, 2010

Morning Feature

Morning Feature: Sticky Ideas, Part II – Tell Me a Story

“Tell me a story, mom.”

“Okay. Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after.”

She squeezed Puffalump. “No, mom! A real story!”

“Well, yesterday I was in the grocery and….”

Now she pointed Puffy’s arm at her bookshelf. “No, mom! A good story!”

Well, sometimes even Mamas make mistakes. (More)

Sticky Ideas, Part II – Tell Me a Story

As progressive Democrats, we need sticky ideas that people will hear, remember, repeat, and act on. So this week Morning Feature explores Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Yesterday we discussed ideas that are simple, unexpected, and concrete. Today we consider credible, emotional stories. Saturday we conclude with a Stickiness Clinic, helping each other put it all together.

Springoff the Fifth wasn’t going to let me out of bedtime story duty. Not that I really minded. I enjoyed reading to her, and watching her act out favorite parts of the story with Puffalump, her favorite stuffed toy. She took Puffy everywhere. Puffy’s skin was pink parachute nylon, so she could go in the wash. And I could sew Puffy back together when her seams wore out. Several times.

So when Puffy pointed to the bookshelf, it was time for Judith Viorst’s My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things. Or as we called it, based on the refrain that runs through the story, “Sometimes even Mamas make mistakes.” It’s the story of a young boy whose Mama says there are no scary monsters, but his Mama forgot his favorite flavor of ice cream, and one day she told him to wear boots and it didn’t even rain. “Sometimes even Mamas make mistakes” … and what if Mama’s wrong about the monsters too? Happily, “But sometimes they don’t.”

Springoff the Fifth is in college now. I haven’t read that story in years. But I remember it vividly, as does she. Its refrain – “Sometimes even Mamas make mistakes” – was very handy that one time I made a mistake. Okay, the many, many times. In sharing that story we rehearsed mom being wrong, yet still reliable.

Viorst’s book was sticky, and encouraging. Why was it sticky, and not just from spilled food? Well, it was….

Credible

Many sticky (and useful!) ideas are neither factual nor scientifically accurate. There probably was no shepherd boy who falsely cried “Wolf!” twice, then got eaten when a wolf showed up and no one believed his third cry. Yet we can easily imagine people not responding to a real warning after someone has repeatedly given false warnings. The fable isn’t factual or scientifically accurate … but it’s credible, sticky, and useful. How do we make our ideas credible? The Heath brothers discuss two kinds of credibility.

Ideas can have external credibility, based on an authority or anti-authority. An authority may be an expert (e.g.: Lance Armstrong on cycling), or a celebrity whom we take for an expert by association (e.g.: Armstrong promoting sports drinks). And there are anti-authorities, people who ignored experts and talk about the consequences (e.g.: Pam Laffin on smoking). Anti-authorities are often more credible than experts, and we’ll discuss why below.

Ideas can also have internal credibility:  Internal credibility can come from convincing details (like those I shared about Puffalump), or from accessible statistics (e.g.: you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the lottery jackpot). Finally, ideas can include testable credentials that the audience can verify from their own experience (e.g.: “It’s like when grocery stores put candy next to the cash register;” you’ve seen that too, so the point seems credible).

Consider the first point in our progressive agenda: People matter more than profits. Its credibility comes from a testable credential: “Would you kill people to make an extra percent or two?” Non-sociopaths will answer “No.” Then we talk about other harms. We may not agree on every specific case – not even all progressives do – but the discussion is no longer only about money. We’ve established credibility.

Emotion

Credibility makes others believe us, but if they don’t care then our idea is merely trivia. To make people care, a sticky idea needs emotional appeal. So how do we get people to care about our ideas?

First there’s the Mother Theresa Principle: “If I look at many, I will do nothing. If I look at one, I will act.” Ideas affecting thousands or millions seem too big for our efforts to matter, but if we consider one person then we can help. That’s why we talk about Fred, our archetypal median voter. Fred isn’t a real person, but he’s not a general idea of “the masses” either. He is specific. For one thing, he has a name. We’ve talked about what matters to Fred, and why. The information came from opinion polls, but we made that personal. I’m an activist because I care about Fred and want government to help him, or at least not make his problems worse.

Ideas can also appeal to self-interest, and not only the basest self-interest. Research shows most of us don’t vote on pure self-interest: “What’s in it for me?” We more often consider idealized self-interest: what The Person I Want To Be would want. When Texas created its new anti-littering campaign, the slogan was Don’t Mess With Texas. But the emotional hook, represented by masculine Texas celebrities in the ads, was Real (Texas) Men Don’t Litter. The ads redefined an idealized self-interest, made “Texas Bubba” care about littering, and worked better than even their creators dared hope. It’s one of the book’s most inspirational….

Stories

Earlier I said that anti-authorities are often more credible than experts. Why? It’s the same reason “Sometimes even Mamas make mistakes” helped my daughter and I in the many, many, many times I messed up. Stories are not only entertainment. Research shows that when we tell, read, or hear a story about doing something, we use the same parts of our brains we’d use to do that thing. Stories simulate behavior, and that’s why the Heath brothers describe stories as flight simulators. Pam Laffin’s stories about her battles with emphysema and needing a lung transplant in her 20s hit us far harder any expert lecture on the risks of smoking because we experience those battles as we read or see her describe them.

Stories are sticky ideas because the story form imposes most of the other points of stickiness: a Simple core, Unexpected twists, Concrete details of people doing things, making the story Credible and, if it has a sympathetic character, Emotional. And since they simulate behavior – we process them as if we were doing them – stories can inspire us to do something.

So the next time you’re tempted to reel off a list of facts and figures … stop yourself and tell a story instead. You don’t even have to make one up. Many of the stickiest and best stories are already out there. Subway didn’t invent Jared Fogle; they found him by a series of coincidences, and one of their marketing people was smart enough to know a good story when he saw it.

And if you can remember SUCCESs – Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional Stories – you’re smart enough to do that too.

+++++

Happy Friday!

58 Responses to “Morning Feature: Sticky Ideas, Part II – Tell Me a Story”

  1. JanF Says:

    This is a very clear description of the rest of SUCCESs.

    I would like to be able to use this as the Glue to more permanently attach my Fred Whispering.

    (By the way, there are monsters…they are just not in most kids bedroom closets)

    • NCrissieB Says:

      These ideas are straightforward enough that we can all use them to make our ideas stickier. The Heath brothers suggest putting the SUCCESs acronym on a Post-It note by your monitor when you’re writing an idea, and using it as a checklist for stickiness. The more points checked, the more likely the idea will stick for your audience. Their research shows it works.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  2. winterbanyan Says:

    Great point about story-telling! I’m a great believer in telling stories, and not just because I’m a novelist.

    To this day we read Aesop’s fables, and we’re apt to remember parables from the New Testament even if we’ve never read it because they have become such a part of our culture. And how many of those stories have been reduced to simple cue phrases as a result: Sour grapes, the Good Samaritan, and so on.

    Great article. :)

    • JanF Says:

      The Boy Who Cried Wolf is probably the best sticky idea story I have ever heard. It is something that children can understand pretty early on. Maybe another attribute of a good sticky idea is that a child has to get it.

      • winterbanyan Says:

        Maybe so, Jan. The Ugly Duckling is another that comes to mind. I heard plenty of stories as a kid, but you’re right about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Immediate, lasting, deep impact.

        Another one, not quite so impactful but maybe more folks need to hear it: The Little Dutch Boy who put his finger in the dike and saved the town.

        I wonder if that would get through to the Tea Baggers?

    • NCrissieB Says:

      Our brains are wired to share and respond to stories. One of the most interesting parts of the book was their research at Stanford (one of the Heath brothers is a professor) with public speaking. Each year in one of his classes, he gives eight students an information page on a topic and a few minutes to prepare a one-minute speech. After all eight students had given their speeches, the rest of the class evaluate them on effectiveness. Not surprisingly, the more confident, articulate speakers get higher scores, and students who are nervous or for whom English is a second language get lower scores.

      He then plays a brief Monty Python clip, as if to introduce another topic but actually to distract the students for a few minutes. Finally he asks them to write down every idea they remember from each student’s speech.

      Here’s the Unexpected part: There was no correlation between a speaker’s score and how many ideas other students remembered from his/her speech!

      The more confident, articulate speakers did not necessarily give stickier speeches. They just sounded better while speaking. And what ideas were the other students most likely to remember? Stories … even if the speaker was nervous, or English was his/her second language.

      You don’t have to be a great speaker to make your ideas stick. Just tell stories. We remember those….

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      • JanF Says:

        This reminds me of addisnana’s story about how Glenn Beck mesmerizes his audiences. Confident and articulate means more popular…but in his case are they stickier speeches? Is there something else making them sticky?

        • NCrissieB Says:

          Yes, there is something else making Beck’s messages sticky. He makes Simple points in Unexpected ways (consider the bizarre stuff he says, or how he presents his ideas as mysteries). He uses Concrete (if often fabricated) details and appeals to authority – including his blackboard prop – to make the ideas Credible. He bypasses analysis with Emotional appeals, many of which he offers in Stories.

          I don’t know if he’s read Made to Stick, but he uses the same techniques. And he’s no idiot-savant. He didn’t finish college, but he did study Orson Welles’ radio techniques in depth, listening to Welles’ famous War of the Worlds broadcast time and again and picking apart how it worked.

          Progressives who dismiss Beck’s success do so at their peril, and expose their arrogance. Stickiness is not about whether you agree with an idea; it’s about whether people remember, repeat, believe, care about, and act on that idea.

          Good morning! ::hugggggs::

          • addisnana Says:

            I am waiting for the answer to the teaser question “How is Glenn Beck like the twilight zone?”.

            • JanF Says:

              Yeah. Me too. Maybe NCrissieB is just a tease… ;-)

            • NCrissieB Says:

              Ahh. Oops. Well, aside from the obvious joke (he seems to live there), Beck tells stories like Rod Serling told stories … intriguing, lots of seemingly mundane (thus very credible) details, but always with a stunning (unexpected) twist at the end that flips everything on its head. E.g.:

              I’m really scared for ordinary working man. [He adds concrete details about ordinary working people.] America isn’t taking care of the ordinary working man anymore. [Emotional connection with the listener.] I don’t think people recognize the danger. [Ooh, a mystery!] It’s like that poem from Nazi Germany: “First they came for the bankers, but I wasn’t a banker so I said nothing. Then they came for the AIG executives, but I wasn’t an AIG executive….”

              Note the Serling-esque flips-everything-upside-down twist in the boldface: from “ordinary working people” to bankers and AIG executives, as if they’re the same. That’s classic Twilight Zone: get the audience to join you on the mystery, then flip their world upside-down with a twist … that’s credible only because every step getting there was so mundane….

              Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  3. addisnana Says:

    I’m thinking about Subway and Jared. When I think of healthy eating and fast food, Subway is the only place that comes to mind and I have never seen a drive through Subway. I wonder if other fast food companies felt that the drive through lane gave them a competitive advantage when the Jared stories first started. Next my mind went to that man who ate only McDonald’s for a month and documented his health. Talk about the power of stories!

    I am finding this series so much easier to relate to than the concept of framing. Maybe it’s because I love a good story or maybe it’s because I thought I understood framing when I read (and reread) Lakoff and when Crissie wrote about it. Then when I wandered into DK and made a comment, someone would say, “That’s a great frame.” when I didn’t think it was at all. My thinking that I understand framing comes and goes.

    Thanks for this Crissie.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      Well, the first thing to remember about frames is that most people say “That’s a great frame” to mean “I agree.” Most people who talk about frames – the Heath brothers use the term schema – don’t understand them any more than you do. If the idea appeals to them, “That’s a good frame.”

      Here’s a way to understand the essence of frames: the movie Alien was pitched as “Jaws in a spaceship.” Those four words evoke everything you know about Jaws: conflict of Man vs. Beast, lurking danger, isolated characters, etc. That pitch uses Jaws as a frame.

      And it’s a very useful frame, not only for selling the movie to a studio executive (after all, Jaws was incredibly successful) but also for guiding decisions while making Alien.

      For example, movie spaceships had always been pristine: white or pale gray colors, no dust, everything looking brand new. But the set designer of Alien – hearing “Jaws in a spaceship” – remembered the boat in Jaws: grungy, junk tucked here and there, etc. So the designer drew sketches of the spaceship including grease stains, junk in corners, etc. It was the spaceship equivalent of the Orca.

      A good frame taps into information we already know and lets us use it in another context.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      • Heart of the Rockies Says:

        We recently visited the Pixar exhibit at the Oakland art museum. The text accompanying the exhibit stressed that the success of the Pixar movies was based foremost on having a good story with characters people could identify with. Hand drawn story boards were on display. There were many dozens of drawings of the various characters. There were also color boards. These boards showed the color palette of each segment of the story and how the colors reinforced the feelings and action of the story at that moment.

        As I think about it, many of the sticky principles are part and parcel of the approach and success of these movies.

        • winterbanyan Says:

          Hi, HotR. That’s an interesting illustration. Too bad I can’t get to the exhibit. There have been times, though, when I’ve noticed in a film exactly what you said about the color palette. It may not strike me on first viewing, but after repeated viewings I may well notice how that palette plays into the mood and action.

          I think color choice in a medium like movies is as important as music. Wish I had some of these options in a novel. ;)

          • Heart of the Rockies Says:

            They also had a fantastic film that illustrated the use of sound to reinforce the story. It was at the end of the exhibit so that you could put all the elements of story, characters, believability, color and mood together.

      • JanF Says:

        I hate frames as a term but I hate schema even more. I am with addisnana: what is wrong with just using the term “ideas”. Sticky ideas.

        • NCrissieB Says:

          “Sticky ideas” and “frames” are not (quite) the same.

          For example: “Jaws in a spaceship” is a sticky idea. It’s simple, unexpected (you don’t expect a shark in a spaceship), concrete (you know the movie Jaws and what a spaceship is), credible (Jaws was both a good movie and a blockbuster success), emotional (remember how scared you were with the shark attacked?), and a story (Man triumphs over Beast).

          But those four words – “Jaws in a spaceship” – don’t explicitly include all of those elements. Those four words are not a story. They’re not even a complete sentence. There’s no verb in those four words, yet they crackle with tension and evoke images of action. How?

          Because they use Jaws as a frame. Anything you can say or think about that movie – the story, tension, action, look, etc. – is carried into “Jaws in a spaceship.” A good frame makes an idea stickier because the statement of the idea can be very Simple. The details of the idea are encoded in the frame, and having the details encoded – rather than listed explicitly – makes the idea stickier.

          Good morning!

          • JanF Says:

            I wonder if a strong awareness of pop culture is necessary for many of these frames to work. For example, if someone does not see very many movies or does not watch much television do the frames fall flat because they have nothing to stick to? Case in point, I have never seen the Jared ad so the entire series of comments related to that resonated as much as hearing someone speak in an ancient Peruvian dialect.

            The frames or sticky ideas or whatever terms are being used would need a common foundation to “stick to” or “be referenced by”.

            That may be why conservative ideas don’t stick on liberals and why liberal ideas don’t stick on conservatives. There is no fertile bed for these ideas because the cultural glue is a different polymer and there is nothing to bond to.

            • winterbanyan Says:

              That’s a good point, Jan. I think you’re right about cultural glue in many cases. For example, even in the Glenbeckism above you’d have to know about the Holocaust and the many people who wondered why no one rose up in protest.

              Don’t feel bad about Jared… I saw only one or two of the ads. My kids had to fill me in on the story because I initially sneered. OTOH, when I was raising my eldest two with an atheist husband I overrode his objections to them reading the Bible by pointing out that it was such a cultural icon they’d be at sea when faced with a lot of references made in ordinary speech.

              As for the cultural glue being different for conservatives and progressives, that’s probably true in a lot of cases. But I’m sure there’s still some glue we have in common. Somewhere. Finding it may be a problem…. ;)

              • JanF Says:

                Finding the common glue may be the issue. I would have thought it was our common humanity but I found out that many don’t really believe that taking care of people is important.

                For the record, I don’t feel badly for not knowing about Jared but I think we need to be careful when we spin our stories that we work from common knowledge or if it is not common knowledge we explain it.

                For example, when I talk about Fred and he has not been mentioned, I always include a link to the original series or mention that he is our archetypal voter. If I want someone to understand me, giving them more information about what I am talking about is important.

            • NCrissieB Says:

              This is true, Jan. Frames are “idea glue” because the speaker doesn’t have to explicitly list the details; the details are encoded in the frame. But that “idea glue” only works if listeners already have that frame. If you don’t have that frame, it encodes no details for you (e.g.: had no “Jared” frame). Or you may have a frame with the same name, but yours is different (e.g.: the “Freedom” frame encodes very different details for progressives and conservatives).

              The same can happen with stories, especially if the stories include “local details.” Take the story of the Good Samaritan. Most of us have heard it, but the Biblical parable has “local details” often lost in modern retelling. The two people ignored the injured man on the road – a priest and a Levite – were highly-respected in 1st century Judea. Samaritans were despised. Jesus told that story in response to the question “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”, then added “Go and do likewise.”

              In modern terms: Jesus said a kind Mexican migrant worker was more likely to see Heaven than an uncaring white megachurch preacher!

              Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

    • LakeToba Says:

      We have a drive through Subway near where I work…

      • addisnana Says:

        Thanks for the info. In MN the ones I have seen are all park and walk in. A drive thru would be handy here given our winters. ;-)

  4. winterbanyan Says:

    The story idea seems intuitively obvious, but it’s not all that easy. I think we need to recognize that telling a good, gripping and memorable story is not easy.

    We all can tell a story. Whether the listeners will listen to the end, or take it away with them is the challenge. I hope we work on some of that tomorrow. It would sure do me some good.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      Telling stories is surprisingly easy. We all tell stories every day: to each other, to friends, family, coworkers, etc. Creating a memorable story is very difficult, but as the Heath brothers note, most of us don’t need to. We need to recognize potentially sticky stories when we see them (like the Subway employee recognized the potential in Jared’s story) and know how to polish stories to make them stickier (SUCCESs). We’ll work on both tomorrow. :smile:

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  5. DBunn Says:

    Thinking of Emmet Till

    The open-casket funeral service for Emmet Till had all the qualities of stickiness. (Feels weird using that trendy word to describe such tragedy, but it is for serious purpose.)

    Simple: a black boy was lynched.
    Unexpected: even though the body had been horribly disfigured, his mother left the lid off the casket and challenged the world to look.
    Concrete: there’s the body right there, and here’s the photo in LIFE magazine.
    Credible: everyone already knew this kind of brutality goes on.
    Emotional: who could not weep.
    Story: tells itself. There’s nothing this boy could have done to deserve what those racist thugs did to him.

    The power of this story is part of history now. For proof of stickiness, 55 years later, I get only 4 letters into typing his name into a search line (including a misspelling) before Google returns “Emmet Till murder”.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      Excellent example, DBunn. Hearing that story and seeing that photo were far stickier than expert sociologists spilling thousands of words of the theories of racism, justice, or privilege. Theory is useful, but only if we can turn it into action.

      In that respect, conservatives are onto something (albeit wrongly) when they dismiss experts in favor of “common sense.” Too often experts talk theory to impress each other and to make their knowledge seem arcane and ‘above’ the rest of us mere mortals. That’s good for an expert’s ego, and for nothing else. But as the Heath brothers note, “common sense” is equally useless. Its commonness makes “common sense” go in one ear and out the other. Sticky ideas embody “uncommon sense” … the quality of unexpectedness that we discussed yesterday.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      • winterbanyan Says:

        That’s a good point, Crissie. We need experts, unquestionably, but to make something “stick” there has to be a visceral element. Facts and figures, however overwhelming and persuasive, don’t have that.

        And unexpectedness will do that. It rivets our attention immediately and fully.

        • Heart of the Rockies Says:

          Didn’t we recently examine how facts and figures, even if correct and well supported, can have the opposite effect on someone who has already made up his/her mind?

          • NCrissieB Says:

            We tend to cherry-pick facts (and fiction) for evidence that supports what we already believe, and explain away or ignore evidence that doesn’t support what we already believe. “Common sense” (per your comment below) says “Seeing is believing.” But that’s wrong. It’s more a case of “Believing is seeing.”

            Sticky messages can change what we believe – consider the Don’t Mess With Texas ads! – and thus change what we see. Before those ads, caring about litter was a ‘liberal tree-hugger’ thing. After those ads, it was a Real (Texas) Man thing … to the point that “Texas Bubba” would growl at someone who tossed something on the ground: “Don’t mess with Texas.”

            Good morning!

            • winterbanyan Says:

              Yeah, that was a hit. Right about the same time they came up with that one, they tried to design a new license plate. They brought in someone from the NE who had designed a lot of plates, and she wanted to go with a blue fade and the slogan: The friendly state… or something very similar.

              Needless to say, the outrage was palpable. Texas did not change to a new plate. You definitely “don’t mess with Texas.”

      • Heart of the Rockies Says:

        Common sense can also be wrong or based on false assumptions, incorrect facts, etc. Think of all the health and dietary nostrums. Of course, even the so-called experts often haven’t much more to support their conclusions than does the common man when it comes to what we should eat, medical treatment, etc.

      • DBunn Says:

        Welfare queens
        Example of a conservative story fragment based on uncommon sense– Ronald Reagan’s image of “welfare queens” cruising around in gold Cadillacs because they had so many kids, with each kid adding to the monthly welfare check. That image, more than any expert argument, changed the majority attitude about welfare. Note: a major reason for this is that there wasn’t a good expert argument to be made against providing meager assistance to poor single mothers with innocent, hungry children.

        When welfare “reform” was finally enacted under Clinton, my one conservative friend was visibly elated. I told him it was a great day indeed, but only if you believe that the biggest problem in America today is that the poor have too much money.

        • JanF Says:

          Gak, DBunn. That myth still has legs. In our local paper they are running LTEs for the gubernatorial race with one pro-Barrett and one pro-Walker each day.

          The letter a couple of days ago was talking about how everyone comes to Wisconsin for welfare because of Democratic governors. Ha ha ha. We have had 8 years of Democratic governors here in the last 40 years and we have not had any kind of welfare for years.

        • winterbanyan Says:

          I absolutely love this:

          I told him it was a great day indeed, but only if you believe that the biggest problem in America today is that the poor have too much money.

          That was a perfect response, and sets up a dissonance in anyone who is not brain dead.

        • NCrissieB Says:

          Another excellent example, DBunn. And conservatives made sure everyone had a mental picture of a “welfare queen,” including a specific skin color. The story linked “welfare” to “brown-skinned people.”

          Your reply to your friend was a good statement of your progressive values – I certainly agree with it – but how did it resonate with him?

          Good morning! ::hugggggs::

          • DBunn Says:

            I thought I saw my comment getting through to my conservative friend, if only for a second. I expect the story he was used to telling himself was something like this: those lazy (black) people are free-loading off us industrious (white) people. But for just a moment, he saw the reverse frame.

  6. winterbanyan Says:

    That’s a great example, DBunn. And thanks for your comments yesterday. Time got away from me before I could give any kind of decent response. Your comments are usually so thoughtful, I feel like a piker if I hand you back a one-liner.

    This got me thinking about what makes a story “sticky” to a larger number of people. I’m sure we all have stories that have that kind of stickiness for us and a handful of others: for me for example, the year Emmitt Smith played at the Super Bowl with a badly injured shoulder. The docs didn’t want him to play, but he insisted, and then drove that shoulder into the opposing team time and time again to gain precious yards. That sticks for me, while others would shrug.

    So maybe something needs to reach the level of a Jungian archetype (and no, I’m no a Jungian) to have stickiness for millions upon millions. I’m wondering.

    • DBunn Says:

      Now it’s my turn to not have anything great to say to your comment, except thanks for the kind words.

      Sorry, I don’t remember the Emmit Smith story. Maybe because I’m a 49ers fan, and the Cowboys always used to be our great rivals back when both teams were good.

      They do say that in oral cultures, fairy tales coalesce into moving, memorable stories through a process of many generations of re-telling by many thousands of tellers. It reflects an unconscious filtering process, we might call it mimetic evolution (from the word “meme”). Either that, or the fancy college guys who collected and recorded the folk tales just couldn’t bring themselves to believe that a bunch of illiterate peasants were capable of thinking up a good story on their own, heh.

      • winterbanyan Says:

        I like that about oral cultures, and stories passing through the generations. There was a time before everyman could write that oral histories and storytelling were essential, and any evening around a campfire they would be shared. When I studied anthropology, it was one of the things that fascinated me about pre-literate cultures: the importance of those stories, and the way they had to be learned exactly before you, yourself, could become a recognized storyteller. Which suggests to me that everyone was memorizing those tales well enough to know when someone altered them.

        But at the same time, there must have been embellishment, because humans are naturally creative. My guess is, if you had a great embellishment you’d be forgiven for changing the familiar narrative…and a new version might move into the future.

        What I noted though, too, was that there were “sacred” stories and “other stories.” Those considered “sacred” (not in the sense of holy) never changed. The information they contained was considered too important, and the way they were told were part of the informational process.

        So we get back to sticky ideas. The way they’re formed makes them informational beyond the words themselves.

        Hmmm… I just talked myself a good circle here. ;)

  7. Heart of the Rockies Says:

    Can someone explain why some comments are highlighted in yellow? And why it isn’t possible to give a tip to others? (DBunn’s, for example)

    • JanF Says:

      The color changes when there are 4 or more tips. It is a way to visually highlight a Well-loved comment.

      If you can’t tip you might not have Java installed on your computer. Are you seeing the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down?

      • Heart of the Rockies Says:

        For most comments I see the brightly colored thumbs and can tip. But on a few comments they are dull or dimmed, and I cannot tip.

        • JanF Says:

          I am going to guess that they will cycle back to the Thumbs Up or Thumbs down when you refresh. The tipping mechanism is called a “plugin” and it is software that runs on the WordPress platform. Like any program, it make take a while for the code to execute. Let me know if the tipping comes back after a screen reload/refresh.

          And like any other plugin it is code written by people and distributed for free which means it is not always perfect.

        • winterbanyan Says:

          The last time I saw that was when two people were writing from the same ISP. This must be some version of that.

          • JanF Says:

            That plugin was replaced. We are using a cookies-based version now. But cookies are a very odd technology and prone to a lot of hiccups.

            But all this talk of cookies is making me hungry.

  8. HurrikanEagle Says:

    Tying in with DBunn this is something that most historians need to learn. The History Channel (or the Hitler Channel depending on what they’re showing) often focuses as much on stories as it does the individual facts. The best selling books regarding history are a persons story about a given timeframe.

    Instead though we want to tie history to odds and ends facts, names and dates with no real backing to them.

    Great Morning Feature Crissie. YAY for Stories

    • NCrissieB Says:

      Thank you. I’ve read many history books that left me wondering if the writer realized the word “story” is right there in history. Lists of facts, names, dates – with no story to tie them together – are a big reason so many people find history boring.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  9. sjterrid Says:

    When my daughter was little, her favorite toy was a puffalump. She always had it with her. Great series Crissie. Good afternoon hugggs!

    • winterbanyan Says:

      Great to see you here, sjterrid. :) Don’t become a stranger.

    • JanF Says:

      Happy to see you here, sjterrid. More and more MFers from DKos are finding this a peaceful place to be.

      My daughter is 11 but has not given up on her stuffed animals. She still sleeps with a lot of her favorites and we have to bargain over how many she can take on our trips (driving trips – no more than 10, airplane trips – max 5 and if it won’t fit in her backpack it can’t ride with us…mean mom ;-) )

    • NCrissieB Says:

      Great to see you here, sjterrid! :grin:

      Springoff the Fifth still has Puffy – often-laundered and many-times-resewn – somewhere. She may even still sleep with Puffy. Alas, my mom was afraid of dust and germs so I couldn’t have stuffed toys. So I hugged a basketball. Yes, I’m weird…. ;-)

      Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

  10. LakeToba Says:

    Great thread, everyone!