Friday, January 22, 2010

The Rounding Influence of Storytelling

Insight is a story. It goes beyond an agreed upon fact and uncovers paradox.

There really isn’t any formula for insight because it depends on the ability to see beyond the data and consider context.

For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been pursuing insight, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. The archive is one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.

An article from last June’s Atlantic entitled “What Makes us Happy” focused on this study.

Amidst the data collected, the enduring lessons of the men studied were paradoxical and the scientific output needed, “the rounding influence of story-telling."

Insight is a story. How something is told affects its meaning. What to tell?

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