Story telling and Cognitive Linguistics

I have been preaching the gospel of story telling as a tool for persuasion in the management context for a while now, heavily influenced by several articles that have appeared in the Harvard Business Review over a period of time.  The group of managers i am mentoring within my organization is currently engaged in a story telling exercise at my behest. As i was trying to explain to them how to improve their story telling capabilities, i came across a brilliant article titled “Framing Wars” by Matt Bai in the NYTimes Sunday magazine 2 weeks ago. If you have wondered, as I have, about how the GOP consistently hammers the same message over and over and wins elections, Matt’s article has a very interesting reasoning behind it. Matt draws heavily from the work of George Lakoff in the field of Cognitive Linguistics.  Based on Matt’s article, one could easily see how story telling could be improved by crafting an overall message or the “Frame”, and creating sub-messages that fit the overall “Frame”. However, this whole concept of multiple exposures to influence someone’s opinion is not new. It has been one of the fundamental guiding principles in the advertising world and the reason why you repeatedly see the same advertising spot many times during the same program (“reach and frequency“). As I started to look further for other psychological factors at play here, I came across a fascinating body of work called “Mere Exposure Effect” first studied by Robert Zajonc. It explains how     our inclination to rate something positive or negative gets influenced by mere exposure to some unrelated item previously.  Even more interesting is the “Sleeper Effect” that makes you remember a particular fact as true after a while, even though it came from a source that was not credible when you first came across it.  Strange are the ways of the human mind ! References:
1. Q&A with Matt Bai. In a strange quirk of NYTimes’s DRM, you have to go to the bottom of this Q&A and click on the related articles link titled “Framing Wars” to read the entire article. If you directly go to this article through a google search, you will be asked to pay for it ! 2. A superb article in The Economist on Persuasion – briefly touches upon another psychological factor – omega theories of persuasion that work to reduce your resistance to an idea. 3. Some links (link1 link2) from Harvard Business Review ($$). 4. Some other bloggers covering this topic –
a. Mark Liberman in the Language Log.
b. Provident Partners on the impact on PR.