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Darpa Explores the Science of Storytelling


Storytelling has always been an art, but do we know anything about its science? Darpa is going out on a limb to explore that very question later this week, in a workshop snappily entitled “Neurobiology of Narratives.”

This project is actually the latest in a series of studies on the neuroscientific implications of human narratives, which began in February this year. (A final workshop, on “influence-related modeling/simulation/sensor tools,” will happen later.)

Darpa says a discussion of narrative psychology will lead to a “better understanding of the thoughts and feelings of others.”

But another reason the Pentagon would want to spend time upping its sensitivity quotient is because of an ongoing effort on its part to understand the “human terrain” of the battlefields in which they fight. The Army is investing hundreds of millions in building a teams of “cultural counselors” to get into the minds of the locals in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea is that the better you understand the population, the easier it is to sway them to your side — and win the war.

A little paragraph tucked away at the end of the Darpa project description illuminates this. “This workshop will [connect] our understanding of the neurobiology of narratives with models…salient to security concerns,” it reads.


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