Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct

By Theodore R. Sarbin | Go to book overview

6 Narrative Thinking as a Heuristic Process

John A. Robinson and Linda Hawpe


INTRODUCTION

Our concern in this chapter is with the ways in which stories are used in thinking. Experience does not automatically assume narrative form. Rather, it is in reflecting on experience that we construct stories. The stories we make are accounts, attempts to explain and understand experience. Narrative thinking is, therefore, a type of causal thinking. The power and versatility of narrative thinking are rooted in the cognitive schema which serves as the generative base for any story. The narrative schema identifies several categories of information (for example, protagonist, situation, outcome) and relevant types of relationships among them (for example, temporal, motivational). Narrative thinking consists of creating a fit between a situation and the story schema. Establishing a fit, that is, making a story out of experience, is a heuristic process, one which requires skill, judgment, and experience. When it is successful, the outcome of story making is a coherent and plausible account of how and why something happened. Everyday stories are not fictions, or rather, they are no more fictional than any other product of

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