Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You can Count on Them


"... when a movie begins, the audience immediately starts looking for who the Main Character is, so they can take part in the story.

Give it to them. Make it clear. Make the Main Character's first appearance be a metaphor for the person he or she is, or an allegory for the journey he or she is about to undertake.
" - Dan Decker, The Anatomy of a Screenplay

So characters make a story.

And the making of a story can be very healthy, for us, characters, too!

Listen what Daniela O'Neill, professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo ( I know a story about this?) in Ontario, has to say.

"...[We have found] a relationship between math and specific storytelling skills. Kids who ranked highly on certain language skills at age 3 or 4 did better on a math test two years later."


Testing time

O'Neill and Co. rounded up 48 Canadian kids who did not have learning disabilities and showed them "Frog Goes to Dinner," a 12-page picture-only book that shows a boy visiting a restaurant -- with his pet frog.

The amphib gets into a bucket of trouble. No duh! The tester gave each kid a puppet and asked him or her to describe the book's action to the puppet.


  • Taking a character's perspective. At one point, the frog jumps into a lady's salad. As he pokes his amphibian snout from the escarole, the diner silently screams. A child who could take the character's point of view might say, "Eek, there's a frog in my salad!" O'Neill observes. "They are going into her shoes, speaking for her. ... We looked to see how well the children captured the movement of events from character to character. Some children would tell only about the frog's action, and you would hardly know there are other people in the story."

  • Number of events the kids noticed. A more detailed picture of events in the story predicted better math skills two years later.

  • Using mental-state terms. Some kids could express what the characters were feeling. For example, when the frog appeared in the salad, O'Neill says, these kids might observe that the unlucky diner was "surprised."

  • Conclusion

    The brain circuits that help us move through the various parts of a story also help us look at the world from a logical, numerical, mathematical viewpoint.

    More research has found yet another means of healing through storytelling. Jody Koenig Kellas of San Francisco State University and Valerie Manusov of the University of Washington conclude in their paper 'What's in a Story' that:

    "The construction of narratives has been shown to assist sufferers of emotional or traumatic events - such as the ending of relationships - in making sense of and coming to terms with the event."

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