From the August 2003 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Stories Persuade

Social psychology helps explain why rhetorical devices like stories are a persuasive, effective way to communicate ideas.

Organizational sociologists Joanne Martin and Melanie Powers set up an experiment comparing the persuasiveness of four different presentation methods meant to convince MBA students that a particular company practiced a policy of avoiding layoffs.

In the first method, they told only a story. In the second, the researchers presented statistical data that showed that the company had significantly less turnover than its competitors. The third presentation used statistics and a story. In the fourth, the researchers used a straightforward policy statement made by a company executive. The researchers found that those presented with the story alone believed the company's claims more than any of the other three groups.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.