03/19/10 COM 324: Communication Theory and Society
The Narrative Paradigm in Advertising Persuasion
I. Definition of the Theory
The Narrative Paradigm Theory is grounded on Fisher’s explanation of storytelling as something natural to man stating that men as “homo narrans” are the “storytelling animals” (Wood, 200). This is an activity most basic to humans and an activity that is distinctive to them. Men relate their experiences in the form of stories possessing a setting, characters, a plot, point of view and a theme. The formation of these stories is what constitutes most of a person’s communication with others as it gauges the person’s depiction of reality and perception of the world in a story-like form.
Wood says, stories, more often than not, are associated with written literary works such as novels and fairytales, visual entertainment like movies and other forms like songs. Fisher claims that these aren’t the only sources to find stories (200). From typical conversations with friends, to a student’s presentation, a teacher’s lecture, a church sermon and a convicts plead, the use of narrative and stories is found.
According to Fisher, people formulate our stories in a narrative form, narration taken in the context that it includes symbolic words and actions that people may use to assign meaning (Wood, 2000). Drawing from this, narration then allows man to relay messages in a form that captures his subjectivity and those he relates to putting into play the importance of emotional and aesthetic elements. A core principle in Fisher’s paradigm is the element of persuasiveness. Drawing from the fact that humans are naturally storytellers, they are, then, persuaded by compelling or good stories. It is not in the enumerated rational and logical arguments that persuade an audience but rather it is more in the use of a story that gives them “good reasons” for engaging in a particular action. Theses so called “good reasons” are based on the person’s history, culture, character, values and experiences, therefore making it very subjective. He takes his argument further by expounding on the narrative rationality stating that with this kind of paradigm, people form their values, beliefs and decisions that are influenced by emotional and aesthetic appeal, as mentioned previously. “Life is a set of stories, he says”. It is up to the person whether to reject or accept the stories and let these affect him as he continues in life. Fisher believes that not all stories are equally compelling, meaning, some aren’t good enough for audiences to gain belief. Moreover, he gives two specific standards for assessing this narrative rationality, coherence and fidelity. Coherence is the logical, clear and consistent aspect of the story targeting the over-all integration of the elements involved. In short, coherence is whether the story makes sense or not. Standards don’t stop there. For judging coherence a person must first look into how the storyteller portrays the character to be, whether their actions support their character profile. As long as the character’s behavior is in tune with how the storyteller presents them to be then it is coherent and, therefore, believable. Another standard for judging coherence would be to contrast specific stories taken from others with ones that are retained in our memory that have about the same situations or event, one of these stories will always be more compelling than the other (Wood, 200). Next is Fidelity, defined as the extent to which a story resonates with listeners’ personal experiences and beliefs (Wood, 2000). In simple terms, it is that “relate-ability” factor. One of the reasons why stories can be so powerful is because, more often than not, someone, whether in a story or in real life, has also experienced it, believed in it and valued it. Despite the fact that people walk in different directions, somewhere...
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