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 observing 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 the writings of Jerome 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.[2]

According to Theodore R. 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.[1]

Literary critic Seymour Chatman argues that "the theory of stories [is] 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."[3] Chatman's precise structuring of discourse is fundamental to the critical nature of understanding narrative psychology.[3] 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.[3]

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. Nearly three hundred field workers participated in the process of interviewing 2000 slaves across seventeen states to construct narratives from the former slaves' accounts of their lives as slaves and during the period after the Civil War. One of the best interviewers was said to be folklorist Ruby Pickens Tartt, who worked principally in rural Sumter County in Alabama. She recorded exactly what the slaves would say in their interviews, and she went on to write folk tales based on their tales.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sarbin, T.R. (ed.) (1986). Narrative psychology: the storied nature of human conduct.
  2. ^ Bruner, Jerome Bruner (1990). Acts of Meaning, Harvard University Press.
  3. ^ a b c Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse.
  4. ^ Brown, A., & Taylor, D. (1997). "Gabr'l Blow Sof': Sumter County, Alabama, Slave Narratives", Livingston Press, The University of West Alabama.