Some of us set goals or make choices based on what we don't want to happen, what we want to move away from; others of us are moved by what we want to attain, or move towards. In any given situation, some people are away-from aroused while others are towards propelled. This away from (prevention)/towards (promotion) preference is called regulatory focus; I have blogged about it before.
While doing some research on zombies and other kinds of monsters, I kept thinking of regulatory focus. If we learn from stories (see my last post which is about whether stories teach), then perhaps our regulatory focus would give a clue as to what kinds of stories are most edifying for each of us. Which stories are most influential are likely not one-size-fits all since we are not monolithic. The type of story that will motivate is probably situational, too: Brian may be motivated by a story about how he doesn't want his life to turn out when looking at finances, but by the story of someone who got it right in the arena of health.
Approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry and Solution Focused seek to find out what has worked in the past and move towards the future with those successes or assets in mind. Their stories don't invite or include monsters from the past. These methods seems to be towards/promotion focused and the stories are, too. The approaches are growing in popularity and who would argue with their spotlight on the positive?Perhaps Professor Stephen Asma. He writes:
In a significant sense, monsters are a part of our attempt to envision the good life or at least the secure life. Our ethical convictions do not spring fully grown from our heads but must be developed in the context of real and imagined challenges. In order to discover our values, we have to face trials and tribulation, and monsters help us imaginatively rehearse. Imagining how we will face an unstoppable, powerful, and inhuman threat is an illuminating exercise in hypothetical reasoning and hypothetical feeling.
Click to read the rest of "Monsters and the Moral Imagination" (Chronicle of Higher Education).
When we seek to teach through narrative or story, should we include a mix of tales? Both of monsters or mistakes and of pioneers or progress? Look at what could go or has gone wrong, along with what can or has gone right? What do you think?
Note: Next month will see the publication of a new book on regulatory focus. The title is Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence.
Photo of Edd Nichols taken by Jim Havey.