Narrative psychology

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Narrative psychology is a viewpoint or a stance within psychology concerned with the "storied nature of human conduct" [1] or in other words how human beings deal with experience by constructing stories and listening to the stories of others. Operating under the assumption that human activity and experience are filled with "meaning" and stories, rather than logical arguments or lawful formulations, narrative psychology is the study of how human beings construct stories to deal with experiences; such dichotomy is found in Jerome S. Bruner (1986, 1990, 1991) as a distinction between "paradigmatic" and "narrative" forms of thought, in his understanding they are both fundamental but irreducible one to the another.

According to Sarbin (1986) "narrative" is a root metaphor for psychology that should replace the mechanistic and organic metaphors which shaped so much theory and research in the discipline over the past century. The indisputable physical events of a personal occurrence are different from a story that results from the storied cause and effect relationships. (McKinnon)

"The theory of stories are defined as an overt interpretation, the event being increasingly contextually dependent on the ability of the individual "reading-out" the story and the act of a writer authoring a story." (Chatman). Chatman's precise structuring of discourse is fundamental to the critical nature of understanding Narrative Psychology. Independent of any fiction in the actual physical matter told, are physical events that are as unequivocal as quantum mechanics and human chemistry. The epistemological aspect - the science of the matter - is undiscovered without the study of Narrative Psychology and the valid theories defined by the founders of Narrative Psychology.

According to Brown and Taylor (1997) African American slaves have made contributions to narrative psychology by participating in the Federal Writers Project that was conducted from 1937 to 1938. Escott's study (as stated in Brown and Taylor, 1997) indicated that nearly three hundred field workers participated in the process of interviewing 2000 slaves across seventeen states to construct the narratives from the former slaves. The former slaves that were interviewed shared information about their lives as slaves. They also discussed their culture during the period of the Civil War and life after slavery. In Botkin's book (as stated in Brown and Taylor, 1997)one of the best interviewer's was a female named Ruby Pickens Tartt from rural Sumter County in the State of Alabama. According to Brown and Taylor (1997) Ruby Pickens Tartt was a very good writer and recorded exactly what the slaves would say in their interviews. She had a special relationship with the poor Blacks in Sumter County, AL and went on to write folk tales as told by the slaves.

The first accredited degree in Narrative Psychology as a science was awarded to John D. McKinnon (2001) University of Wisconsin - Green Bay.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sarbin, T.R. (ed.) (1986). Narrative psychology: the storied nature of human conduct.


  • Brown, A., & Taylor, D. (1997). "Gabr'l Blow Sof': Sumter County, Alabama, Slave Narratives", Livingston Press, The University of West Alabama.
  • Jerome Bruner (1990). Acts of Meaning, Harvard University Press.
  • Seymour Chatman. Story and Discourse
  • Vincent Hevern. Narrative Psychology