Better stories are personally significant and include relevant details

An older couple and a younger couple drinking coffee at the table, smiling because the older man has learned to tell better stories

Better stories are significant, and detailed

The tale is in the telling. …choosing a personally significant event, and recalling it in some detail results in high quality ratings.

…level of detail is an important predictor of global story quality. …individuals are judged as more confident, more persuasive, and more believable when they share specific details… Providing details not only gives credibility to the storyteller…, but provides the listener with a sense of re-experiencing the original event, allowing the listener to gain knowledge and information about the world without having to experience it directly… Transmission of experienced events may be the primary function of memory-sharing…

Another important predictor of quality was… Personal significance of the shared memory story… When people recall and choose to tell personally significant autobiographical memories, they talk longer and produce better stories…. …sharing personally significant memories increases rapport and caring…, intimacy with romantic partners…, and empathy, as well as serving other social functions…

Indirectly relevant off-target information may supplement the remembered event, providing the listener with additional contextual information, but does not actually improve overall global story quality.

Better stories, with more relevant details, are told by young women and men, and by older women

…young men and women, and older women, all tell equally good autobiographical memory stories… …older men’s stories lack quality…

Older adults tell less detailed autobiographical memory stories and fictional stories… …observed age differences in detail may be due to both communication style and communication goals… …older adults’ communication style is… focused on communicating meaning… …compared to younger adults’ literal style… …older adults prioritize telling the gist of a story over the details… …late life is a phase in which the goal of story-telling may be to communicate directive lessons… Older adults self-report sharing stories with the goal of teaching others through passing on experiences… …older adults’ communication style and goals are consistent with recalling stories without focusing on specific details.

…telling the gist of a story is generally adequate for conveying the message. Telling less detailed stories, however, may alter the social-sharing dynamic…[2]

  1. “Family Meeting.”, 26 Mar. 2015, Accessed 17 Nov. 2016.
  2. Baron, Jacqueline M., and Susan Bluck. “Autobiographical memory sharing in everyday life: Characteristics of a good story.International Journal of Behavioral Development 33.2 (2009): 105-117.

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