Want More Customers? Tell Them a Story

Before there were abstract concepts, and probably before there were numbers, there were stories. She did this; it made him do that; then I heard her say this. According to narrative psychologists the story is our fundamental tool for describing ourselves and the people around us.

But story-telling could be more fundamental, I think. It could be the base of all knowledge, including the latest findings on ion channels or subatomic forces. I'm often struck by the way most scientific talks that I've heard, no matter how abstract their subjects, were narrated:They presented data and ideas as stories—and not just "How odd test results made me wonder what might happen if" but, often enough, "those ion channels really want to stay open." Would anyone understand evolution we saw only patterns of probability emerging over eons? Instead, we speak of fish turning into amphibians, types of dinosaurs becoming types of birds. Stories are, as Claude Levi-Strauss would say, "easy to think with."


A fact about human nature that turns out to have a practical application for marketers: If your website asks people to register, it turns out, you'll get a much better response if you make the procedure into a simple narrative.

You can see the difference here, where Luke Wroblewski compares a standard registration form (first name, last name, email address) with a form that asks for the same information like this: "Hello, my name is [blank] [blank] and I'd like to learn more about your product. I live at [blank] in the [blank] area and I would like to hear back from you soon . . ."

Results: According to Wroblewski's source, the story form gets 25-40 percent more registrations than just-the-facts.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
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This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
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  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
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New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
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Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
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