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Narrative paradigm

The meaning of «narrative paradigm»

Narrative paradigm is a communication theory conceptualized by 20th-century communication scholar Walter Fisher. The paradigm claims that all meaningful communication occurs via storytelling or reporting of events. Humans participate as storytellers and observers of narratives. This theory further claims that stories are more persuasive than arguments.[1][2] Essentially the narrative paradigm helps us to explain how humans are able to understand complex information through narrative.

The Narrative Paradigm is a theory that suggests that human beings are natural storytellers and that a good story is more convincing than a good argument. Walter Fisher developed this theory as a solution making cohesive arguments. Fisher conceptualized the paradigm as a way to combat issues in the public sphere.[3] The problem was that human beings were unable to make cohesive traditional arguments. At the time, the rational world paradigm was the theory used to satisfy public controversies. He believed that stories have the power to include a beginning, middle, and end of an argument and that the rational world paradigm fails to be effective in sensemaking.[4]

Fisher uses the term paradigm rather than theory, meaning a paradigm is broader than a theory. Fisher stated, "There is no genre, including technical communication, that is not an episode in the story of life."[5]

Fisher believed that humans are not rational and proposed that the narrative is the basis of communication. According to this viewpoint, people communicate by telling/observing a compelling story rather than by producing evidence or constructing a logical argument. The narrative paradigm is purportedly all-encompassing, allowing all communication to be looked at as a narrative even though it may not conform to the traditional literary requirements of a narrative. He states:

Storytelling is one of the first language skills that children develop. It is universal across cultures and time.[8]

Walter Fisher conceptualized the Narrative Paradigm in direct contrast to the Rational World Paradigm. "Fisher's interest in narrative developed out of his conclusion that the dominant model for explaining human communication—the rational-world paradigm—was inadequate."[4] Rational World Paradigm suggest that an argument is most persuasive when it is logical. This theory is based on the teachings of Plato and Aristotle.[9]

According to Aristotle, some statements are superior to others by virtue of their relationship to true knowledge. This view claims that:

Narrative rationality requires coherence and fidelity, which contribute to judgments about reasons.[11]

Narrative coherence is the degree to which a story makes sense. Coherent stories are internally consistent, with sufficient detail, strong characters, and free of significant surprises. The ability to assess coherence is learned and improves with experience. Individuals assess a story's adherence by comparing it with similar stories. The ultimate test of narrative sense is whether the characters act reliably. If figures show continuity throughout their thoughts, motives, and actions, acceptance increases. However, characters behaving uncharacteristically destroy acceptance.[12]

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