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Can Science Explain Why We Tell Stories?

Top-Ranked Words with Sample Sentences from the Book

instructions
adapt
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
adapted to the new rules
He insists that storytelling is adaptive, on strictly Darwinian terms, but surely this would only have meaning if he could show that there were human-like groups who failed to compete because they didn't trade tales—or even that tribes who told lots of stories did better than tribes that didn't.†
adaptive = having the ability to change for different situations

(editor's note:  The suffix "-ive" converts a word into an adjective; though over time, what was originally an adjective often comes to be used as a noun. The adjective pattern means tending to and is seen in words like attractive, impressive, and supportive. Examples of the noun include narrative, alternative, and detective.)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of adapt means:
changed to fit a different situation; or made suitable
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
Web Links
amiable
1 use
Surely if there were any truth in the notion that reading fiction greatly increased our capacity for empathy then college English departments, which have by far the densest concentration of fiction readers in human history, would be legendary for their absence of back-stabbing, competitive ill-will, factional rage, and egocentric self-promoters; they'd be the one place where disputes are most often quickly and amiably resolved by mutual empathetic engagement.†
amiably = in a friendly way
DefinitionGenerally amiable means:
friendly, agreeable, and likable
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
constant
1 use
"The only way to find out is to do the science," Gottschall says, reasonably enough, and then announces that "the constant firing of our neurons in response to fictional stimuli strengthens and refines the neural pathways that lead to skillful navigation of life's problems" and that the studies show that therefore people who read a lot of novels have better social and empathetic abilities, are more skillful navigators, than those who don't.†
constant = unchanging, continuous, or happening repeatedly
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library64 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
context
1 use
We have to invent very natural unnatural situations—classrooms where everyone faces front, usually under the threat of more or less brutal discipline—to get people to use language for learning outside the gossip-context.†
context = the setting or situation in which something occurs
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 100
Web Links
despise
1 use
Wilson, for instance, who despised "college professors" and their tastes, tackled the problem of the "boring" modern story at great and lucid length, ending with the intriguing conclusion that each age has its own acceptable boredoms, with Joyce's boredoms being no greater than Sir Walter Scott's.†
despised = disliked strongly and looked down upon
DefinitionGenerally despise means:
to dislike strongly and to look down upon with disrespect
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library14 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
dispute
1 use
1  —1 use as in:
their border dispute
Surely if there were any truth in the notion that reading fiction greatly increased our capacity for empathy then college English departments ... [would] be the one place where disputes are most often quickly and amiably resolved by mutual empathetic engagement.
disputes = disagreements
DefinitionGenerally this sense of dispute means:
disagreement, argument, or conflict
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
dissent
1 use
O.K. Anyone in dissent?†
dissent = to disagree; or disagreement
DefinitionGenerally dissent means:
to disagree; or disagreement or conflict — typically between people who cooperate, and often with official or majority beliefs
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
empirical
1 use
But to think that the invocation of empirical studies on a subject frees one from the job of finding out what the great instinctive psychologists have said about that subject before you got to it is just misguided.†
empirical = based on experience or observation rather than theory
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
Web Links
faction
1 use
Surely if there were any truth in the notion that reading fiction greatly increased our capacity for empathy then college English departments, which have by far the densest concentration of fiction readers in human history, would be legendary for their absence of back-stabbing, competitive ill-will, factional rage, and egocentric self-promoters; they'd be the one place where disputes are most often quickly and amiably resolved by mutual empathetic engagement.†
factional = a sub-group with some interests not shared by the entire group
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
fatuous
1 use
Would you ever allow a book of evolutionary psychology applied to art not to be entirely fatuous?†
fatuous = without intelligence — often implying a smugness or complacency
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
Web Links
Hitler
2 uses
Hitler loved the heroic stories of Wagner, for instance.†
Hitler = German Nazi dictator during World War II who murdered millions of Jews and others who were not of the Aryan race
DefinitionGenerally this sense of Hitler means:
German Nazi dictator during World War II; murdered millions of Jews and others who were not of the Aryan race (1889-1945)
Word Statistics
Book2 uses
Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
influential
1 use
On the other hand, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an influential story about the evils of slavery.†
influential = having influence (affecting people or events)
DefinitionGenerally influential means:
having influence (the ability to affect people or events) — especially due to respect or admiration
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
on the other hand
1 use
On the other hand, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an influential story about the evils of slavery.†
on the other hand = from another point of view; or in a way that is different (a phrase used to introduce a different perspective or idea)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library23 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
plausible
1 use
Everything—faith, science, love—needs a story for people to find it plausible.†
plausible = apparently reasonable, but unproven
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 500
Web Links
prosperous
1 use
Are societies, like that of Europe now, which has mostly rejected religious storytellers, less prosperous and peaceful than ones, like Europe back when, that didn't?†
prosperous = successful or good — especially with regard to finances or wealth
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
Web Links
resent
1 use
I hear a resentful science-minded reader insist.†
resentful = full of anger or unhappiness at having to accept something not liked
DefinitionGenerally resent means:
to feel anger or unhappiness at having to accept something — often something seen as unjust or something that creates jealousy
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library23 uses in 10 avg bks
revise
1 use
Writers exist who have tried to alter or revise the "universal grammar in world fiction"—Proust and Joyce, for instance, but "aside from English professors, no one much wants to read them."†
revise = change
DefinitionGenerally revise means:
to change (and hopefully improve) — most frequently to improve a written document, but it can be any intentional change such as a change in an estimated amount, a plan, or a series of procedures
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 10
Web Links
stimulus
1 use
"The only way to find out is to do the science," Gottschall says, reasonably enough, and then announces that "the constant firing of our neurons in response to fictional stimuli strengthens and refines the neural pathways that lead to skillful navigation of life's problems" and that the studies show that therefore people who read a lot of novels have better social and empathetic abilities, are more skillful navigators, than those who don't.†
stimuli = things that create growth or excitement, or things that causes an action
DefinitionGenerally stimulus means:
something that creates growth or excitement, or something that causes an action
in various senses, including:
  • economic stimulus — something that makes the economy grow
  • biological or psychological stimulus — something that makes the body react in a particular way such as when more light make the eye pupil shrink, or when lack of sleep causes stress
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library1 use in 10 avg bks
Web Links
therefore
1 use
"The only way to find out is to do the science," Gottschall says, reasonably enough, and then announces that "the constant firing of our neurons in response to fictional stimuli strengthens and refines the neural pathways that lead to skillful navigation of life's problems" and that the studies show that therefore people who read a lot of novels have better social and empathetic abilities, are more skillful navigators, than those who don't.†
therefore = for that reason
DefinitionGenerally therefore means:
for that reason (what follows is so because of what was just said)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library24 uses in 10 avg bks
SAT®*top 1000
Web Links
Walter Scott
1 use
Wilson, for instance, who despised "college professors" and their tastes, tackled the problem of the "boring" modern story at great and lucid length, ending with the intriguing conclusion that each age has its own acceptable boredoms, with Joyce's boredoms being no greater than Sir Walter Scott's.
Sir Walter Scott = Scottish poet and author of historical novels such as Ivanhoe, and Rob Roy (1771-1832)
Word Statistics
Book1 use
Library0 uses in 10 avg bks
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Sample usage followed by this mark was not checked by an editor. Please let us know if you spot a problem.
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