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The narrative arc: Revealing core narrative structures through text analysis

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Scholars across disciplines have long debated the existence of a common structure that underlies narratives. Using computer-based language analysis methods, several structural and psychological categories of language were measured across ~40,000 traditional narratives (e.g., novels and movie scripts) and~20,000 nontraditional narratives (science reporting in newspaper articles, TED talks, and Supreme Court opinions). Across traditional narratives, a consistent underlying story structure emerged that revealed three primary processes: staging, plot progression, and cognitive tension. No evidence emerged to indicate that adherence to normative story structures was related to the popularity of the story. Last, analysis of fact-driven texts revealed structures that differed from story-based narratives.


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Citation: Boyd, R. L., Blackburn, K. G., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2020). The narrative arc: Revealing core narrative structures through text analysis. Science advances, 6(32), eaba2196. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aba2196