- Source: THE HUNT FOR A GOOD STORY
Psychology is also the attempt to tell true stories about humans. We hope to answer big questions by picking the right subjects and researching them carefully, but instead of waiting for stories to happen, we create them. We construct situations, place humans inside them, and record what happens.
The base unit of psychology is also the story. Read the methods section of any psychology paper and you will find people doing things at times in places––stories.
These stories make us yawn because they’re not about people doing things. Nations, eras, and the Renaissance make poor protagonists because they lack everything that makes humans interesting: they don’t have faces or foibles, they don’t love or lose, they can’t be your friends.
A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
That’s the coolest part of these stories: we get to make them. History happens once; we’ll never know what might have been. In our experiments, however, we can create alternate timelines and compare them to our own.
Maybe stories like these are so rare because it’s hard to tell true, new stories that make people feel something. You have to think for a long time. You may have to toss out lots of stories that turn out not to be true, or that don’t make anyone feel anything, or that someone already told in the 1970s. But if you do it right, people might still be telling your stories long after you’re dead. You may change the way humans think about themselves and each other. You might earn a spot in the textbook right next to Wilhelm Wundt and the first psychology lab. Seems worth a try!