37 Homo Narratus (The Storytelling Species): The Challenge (and Importance) of Modeling Narrative in Human Understanding

Christopher Paul

RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA

The Challenge

Over the last several years, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been repeatedly excoriated for failing to make sufficient and effective use of narrative in support of military operations. Numerous studies, reports, theses, and papers describe the battle of narratives or battle for the narrative and decry the fact that the United States has been losing that battle, or, worse, losing by default by failing to contest the narrative battlespace. 1 Enthusiasts point out that narratives are foundational to justification, legitimacy, public opinion, and effective influence (Nissen 2012). Further, legitimacy and public perceptions are essential to success in operations. The strongest statement of this view asserts that “it will not be the military implementation that will determine the success or failure of the present‐day campaign. The side with the most compelling narrative will succeed” (Crannel and Sheppard 2010).

This chapter presents lessons learned from a study conducted for the US Marine Corps to understand what operational commands can and should try to accomplish with narratives and identifies implications for representing narratives effectively in modeling. It provides an overview of current thinking on the nature of narratives and how they might be better included ...

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