๐Ÿ’Ž People acclimatise to greater wealth meaning enough is never enough

A team led by psychologist Professor Michael Norton contacted over two thousand people whose net worth started at one million dollars and rose to an awful lot more. They were asked to rate their happiness on a ten-point scale, then say how much cash they’d need to be perfectly happy. ‘All the way up the income-wealth spectrum,’ Norton reported, โ€˜basically everyone says two or three times as much.โ€™

Excerpt from: The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It by Will Storr

๐Ÿ’Ž We start guessing the end of sentence before finishing it (the order in which writers place their words matters)

According to Bergen, we start modelling words as we start reading them. We don’t wait until we get to the end of the sentence. This means the order in which writers place their words matters. This is perhaps why transitive construction – Jane gave a Kitten to her Dad – is more effective than the ditransitive – Jane gave her Dad a kitten. Picturing Jane, then the Kitten, then her Dad mimics the real-world action that we, as readers, should be modelling. It means we’re mentally experiencing the scene in the correct sequence. Because writers are, in effect, generating neural movies in the minds of their readers, they should privilege word order that’s filmic, imagining how their reader’s neural camera will alight upon each component of a sentence.

For the same reason, active sentence construction – Jane kissed her Dad – is more effective than passive – Dad was kissed by Jane. Witnessing this in real life, Jane’s initial movement would draw our attention and then we’d watch the kiss play out. We wouldn’t be dumbly staring at Dad, waiting for something to happen.

Excerpt from: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

๐Ÿ’Ž Why people often think they’re the hero (moral superiority)

Everyone who’s psychologically normal thinks they’re the hero. Moral superiority is thought to be a สปuniquely strong and prevalent form of positive illusion’. Maintaining a positive moral self-image’ doesn’t only offer psychological and social benefits, it’s actually been found to improve our physical health. Even murderers and domestic abusers tend to consider themselves morally justified, often the victims of intolerable provocation. When researchers tested prisoners on their hero-maker biases, they found them to be largely intact. The inmates considered themselves above average on a range of pro-social characteristics, including kindness and morality. The exception was law-abidingness. There, sitting in prison, serving sentences precisely because they’d made serious contraventions of the law, they were only willing to concede that, on law-abidingness, they scored about average.

Excerpt from: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

๐Ÿ’Ž The need for writers to show, not tell (C.S. Lewis)

The findings Bergen describes also suggest the reason writers are continually encouraged to ‘show not tell’. As C.S. Lewis implored a young writer in 1956, โ€˜instead of telling us a thing was โ€œterribleโ€, describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was โ€œdelightfulโ€; make us say “delightfulโ€ when we’ve read the description. The abstract information contained in adjectives such as ‘terrible’ and ‘delightful is thin gruel for the model-building brain. In order to experience a character’s terror or delight or rage or panic or sorrow, it has to make a model of it. By building its model of the scene, in all its vivid and specific detail, it experiences what’s happening on the page almost as if it’s actually happening. Only that way will the scene truly rouse our emotions.

Excerpt from: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

๐Ÿ’Ž On the importance of creating โ€˜information gapsโ€™ (to hold attention)

Loewenstein writes of a test in which participants were confronted by a grid of squares on a computer screen. They were asked to click on five of them. Some participants found that with each click, another picture of an animal appeared. But a second group saw small component parts of a single animal. With each square they clicked, another part of a greater picture was revealed. This second group were much more likely to keep on clicking squares after the required five, and then keep going until enough of them had been turned that the mystery of the animal’s identity had been solved. Brains, concluded the researchers, seem to become spontaneously curious when presented with an ‘informations set’ they realise is incomplete. ‘There is a natural inclination to resolve information gaps,’ wrote Lowenstein, ‘even for questions of no importance.’

Excerpt from: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr