The Story of Stories

Why is my friend late? How does nuclear fission work? What occurs when I sneeze? We all need to understand why certain things happen. Some researchers think the drive to explain the world is a basic human impulse, similar to thirst or hunger. This week on Hidden Brain, we begin a three part series on why we tell stories. Psychologist Tania Lombrozo discusses how explanations can lead to discovery, delight, and disaster.

Additional Resources

Research Studies:

“Morality Justifies Motivated Reasoning,” by Corey Cusimano and Tania Lombrozo <forthcoming in Cognition>.


Ockham’s Razor Cuts to the Root: Simplicity in Causal Explanation,” by M. Pacer and Tania Lombrozo, Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2017.


Explanatory Preferences Shape Learning and Inference,” by Tania Lombrozo, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2016.

The under-appreciated drive for sense-making,” by Nick Chater and George Loewenstein, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, October 2015

The Role of Explanation in Discovery and Generalization: Evidence from Category Learning,” by Joseph J. Williams and Tania Lombrozo, in Cognitive Science, December 2009.

Functional explanation and the function of explanation,” by Tania Lombrozo and Susan Carey, in “Cognition, August 2004

Grab Bag:

The illusion of explanatory depth: What makes us arrogant, by the University of Edinburgh.


Fact or Fiction?: Archimedes Coined the term ‘Eureka!’ In the bath, by David Biello, Scientific American, December 8, 2006.


Are Stories a Key to Human Intelligence? By Tania Lombrozo, NPR’s Cosmos and Culture web page, June 13, 2016.


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