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Why are stories important for society?

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Episode notes

Rory Cellan-Jones and leading experts Sarah Dillon and Manvir Singh discuss the value of stories, the possible dangers of endorsing stories and the need for narrative evidence to inform decision-making. 

This episode unpacks the value of stories to understand the past and inform current policy debates. Leading experts from the University of Cambridge and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Toulouse discuss the origin of stories, the status of storytellers, and the crucial need to listen to stories to improve policymaking. 

This episode is hosted by Rory Cellan-Jones (former technology correspondent for the BBC) and features guest experts Sarah Dillon (University of Cambridge) and Manvir Singh (Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse). 

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Episode 5 Transcript

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Audio production by Steve Hankey
Associate production by Stella Erker
Visuals by Thomas Devaud

About our guests

Sarah Dillon is Professor of Literature and the Public Humanities in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. She is a scholar of contemporary literature, film and philosophy, with a research focus on the epistemic function and value of stories, on interdisciplinarity, and on the engaged humanities. She is the co-author of “Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning”. Sarah is also a member of the Bennett Institute Management Board. @profsarahdillon

Manvir Singh is a cognitive and evolutionary anthropologist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse. His research asks why human societies everywhere give rise to practices and beliefs with striking similarities, with a focus on behaviours such as music, story, shamanism, and punitive justice. His toolkit combines ethnographic research, psychological experiments, and the analysis of cross-cultural databases. He received a PhD from the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in 2020. @mnvrsngh

Rory Cellan-Jones is a former technology correspondent for the BBC. His 40 years in journalism saw him take a particular interest in the impact of the internet and digital technology on society and business. He has written multiple books, including his latest “Always On” which was published in 2021. @ruskin147