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Story writing impacts consumer experience

University of Chicago Press Journals

There's a reason why you can't remember much of anything from eighth grade science class. There's also a reason why you'll never forget the big eighth grade camping trip. It simply has to do with the fact that the camping trip is part of a story in which you were a key player. The reason you might not remember much about science class is that there's not much of a story there. It was boring. Memories are stored and remembered easily in story form say the authors of an article in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

"We show how story generation and self-referencing generate fewer negative affective thoughts, but more elaborate thoughts that are better recalled, and produce a task that is less difficult and more enjoyable," says Patricia West, of The Ohio State University, and her colleagues. "The important point is that memories are more easily stored and retrieved in story form, particularly when they encompass a goal, action and some kind of resolution."

In the study, the researchers asked subjects to view German Expressionist paintings and write stories about the paintings. The result was that writing a story increases the writer's preference for a given painting. And of particular interest are those stories where the writing focuses on the author.

What's more, while writing stories about paintings may seem far from applicable to the world of consumer research, the authors argue otherwise, stating, "our results apply most for offerings whose utility resides in their anticipation, consumption, and memory, such as Hawaiian shirts, baseball games, sports cars and family vacations. For such objects stories and dialogs are a central part of the consumption."


From: Altering Experienced Utility: The Impact of Story Writing and Self-Referencing on Preferences (PATRICIA M. WEST, JOEL HUBER and KYEONG SAM MIN).

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