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.

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