Narrative Fallacy

The narrative fallacy leads us to see events as stories, with logical chains of cause and effect. Stories help us make sense of the world. However, if we’re not aware of the narrative fallacy it can lead us to believe we understand the world more than we really do. (Farnam Street)

The article from Farnam Street provides an excellent in-depth explanation, but while it points to a limitation, it actually provides an opportunity I’d like to highlight.

First the limitation: We like to create stories to make sense of the world, and in doing so, we might imagine cause and effect where there is none. Therefore, we have to be careful how much we trust the accuracy of our narratives.

Yet, there is a tremendous opportunity as well - a way to use the narrative fallacy to our advantage. Coming from a social constructionism perspective, I emphasize it’s impossible to perceive ‘objective reality’ without distortions, as it is always embedded in our stories and subjective interpretations. As George Box, a statistician, said: “All models are wrong, but some are useful”.

Here, the narrative fallacy also explains that we always choose which facts we highlight and which facts we ignore, and that we use our selective attention to tell a story that makes sense for ourselves and others as well. Depending on social interaction I am in, I might construct myself as a consultant, father, artist, life coach or somebody completely different. And this construction had real-life consequences and impacts. In a way, it is making cognitive biases such as confirmation bias work in your favor. This is what the choosing one word is all about.