What do Stories Do? Interview with Lane Beckes

Museum Questions

A few weeks ago I shared a post questioning whether storytelling was an appropriate or useful format for museums exhibitions. This post received a number of comments, including people suggesting that stories evoke emotions, and that emotions are important for learning.

In order to better understand how stories work, I interviewed Lane Beckes, Assistant Professor of Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience at Bradley University. Lane studies social processes at the intersection of cognition, emotion, and neurobiology. His research interests include social bonding, empathy, emotion, and prosocial behavior.

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Lane, what can you tell us about how stories work?

I think there are three primary psychological concerns you want to think about when considering what you want your attendees to get out exhibits and in particular the narratives embedded in exhibits. The first is attention. When someone walks in the door of your museum you need that person to first and foremost…

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