Death by cellphone?
The Angry American

Buzzwords of 2015

Buzzword.001Every year has its own buzzword.  Some make it into the dictionary ("selfie"). Some were already there but repurposed ("narrative").

In 2015, "narrative" had to be one of the top 10, edged out perhaps by "Big Data," "Millennials," and "Internet of Things (IoT)." 

"Narrative," or less pompously, storytelling, is important for our purposes because of its double-barreled power to persuade and to deceive. The latter is not necessarily a feature of storytelling, but the potential is always tantalizingly close. 

Maria Konnikova demonstrates why in her compelling New Yorker article "How Stories Deceive."  Briefly, storytelling can pummel our emotions so vigorously there is neither space nor time for reason.

"When we’re immersed in a story, we let down our guard," Konnikova warns. "We focus in a way we wouldn’t if someone were just trying to catch us with a random phrase or picture or interaction... In those moments of fully immersed attention, we may absorb things, under the radar, that would normally pass us by or put us on high alert. Later, we may find ourselves thinking that some idea or concept is coming from our own brilliant, fertile minds, when, in reality, it was planted there by the story we just heard or read."

Konnikova herself demonstrates the technique by framing her thesis within a compelling and emotional story. 

But it's not deceptive because she is clear about her goal -- to warn readers about the dangers of being sucked into an emotionally moving story. And most importantly, because her goal is clearly in her readers' best interests. Plus, she hasn't made any of it up.

Deception is more than lying. It's also failing to respect people's right to reason for themselves, which is a form of stealing.

Let's make "respect reason" the buzzword of 2016.

 

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