Last updated: November 3, 2004

[Narrative Psychology]

 Topics in Narrative Psychology

 Neuropsychology & Cognitive Psychology


Background  ||  Internet  ||  Bibliographical  ||  Theorists

Background Issues

While neuropsychology and cognitive psychology most frequently employ research methods grounded in either experimental or clinical medical approaches, the brain's functioning raises significant narrative concerns.

Damage to the human nervous system can disrupt the narrative production and comprehension ability of patients -- issues of significance to the neuropsychologist assessing higher cognitive functions of clients in order to make recommendations for rehabilitation. But, to those who experience such compromise in the nervous system through insult or injury, fundamental issues may arise about the very sense of self, of who is that patient now coping with changes to the sensorium, perception, motor abililities, or the faculties of central processing. Luria's (1972) early work with Zasetsky, the ex-soldier who tried to make sense of his "shattered world" presaged interest by others in the experience by patients of their own neurological difficulties.

Theorists*Key Figures

Internet Resouces

Primary Focus: Neuropsychology

BrainTalk Communities: Self-Help Support Groups (Massachusetts General Hospital; Dept. of Neurology). Innovative, multiple online support groups for patients and caregivers whose lives have touched by neurological illness. Almost 60,000 registered users of this cyber-meeting space.

Narrative & Neurology: History of Science 171 (Anne Harrington; Harvard College) "What does it ``feel" like to live inside a brain that has been damaged? What role has knowledge of such experience played, or failed to play, in the development of brain science over the past two hundred years? This course probes these questions by juxtaposing narratives ``about" brain damage with the science ``of " brain damage." (course description)

Primary Focus: Cognitive Science

Literature, Cognition and the Brain (Alan Richardson, Boston College). Very large site devoted to the interface of literary analysis and the neuro- and cognitive sciences.

Mark Turner Homepage (U Maryland). Professor of English and associate of the program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science at the University of Maryland.

Gilles Fauconnier Homepage (UCSD)

David Herman Homepage (North Carolina State University)

Cognitive Science of Metaphor (Tim Rohrer, UCSD & Salk Institute)

Cognitive Science, the Humanities and the Arts (Cynthia Freeland, University of Houston).

Michael Mateas Homepage (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Script Theory (R. Schank) [Greg Kearsley, Explorations in Learning & Instruction: The Theory into Practice Database; U Derby, UK]

[Documentary Resources]

Primary Focus: Neuropsychology

[Radio Icon]   I Remember When (CBC Outfront; 14:27 min.). In hope and sadness, Gloria Troyer describes her life since suffering significant memory loss due to encephalitis. She takes a train to Ottawa from Guelph, Ontario and she remembers nothing about doing so many times before. First broadcast in March, 2003. Link.

Bibliographical Resources

    Primary Focus: Neuropsychology

Hartley, L. L., & Jensen, P. J. (1991). Narrative and procedural discourse after closed head injury. Brain Injury, 5, 267-85.

Two narrative and one procedural tasks were presented to 11 closed head-injured (CHI) and 21 normal adults. Significant differences in performance between groups were found on a range of narrative and discourse measures. The clinical and theoretical importance implications of these findings are discussed.

Hemphill, L., Feldman, H. M., Camp, L., Griffin, T. M., & et al. (1994). Developmental changes in narrative and non-narrative discourse in children with and without brain injury. Journal of Communication Disorders, 27, 107-133.

Hirst, W. (1994). The remembered self in amnesics. In U. Neisser & R. Fivush (Eds.), The remembering self: Construction and accuracy in the self-narrative (pp. 252-277). New York: Cambridge University Press.

If autobiographical memory is central to the construal of the self and the ongoing work of self-narrative construction, what happens to neuropsychologically-impaired individuals with severe anterograde amnesia? Hirst reviews theory and provides data gathered from such patients in his laboratory by graduate researchers using diary and other research techniques. Hirst finds evidence of memory storage (with severe retrieval problems) but also notes the roles of implicit memory and its possible expression in self-presentation as contributory to the ongoing life of the self.

Johnson, J. L. (1994). The Thematic Apperception Test and Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Personality Assessment, 62, 314-9.

Jordan, F. M., Murdoch, B. E., & Buttsworth, D. L. (1991). Closed-head-injured children's performance on narrative tasks. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34, 572-582.

Kahn, H. J., Joanette, Y., Ska, B., & Goulet, P. (1990). Discourse analysis in neuropsychology: Comment on Chapman and Ulatowska [comment]. Brain & Language, 38, 454-61.

This paper discusses a recent article by Chapman and Ulatowska (1989, Brain and Language, 36, 651-658) on discourse analysis in aphasia.

[Separator Icon] Alexander Romanovich Luria (1902-1977)

Luria, A. R. (1968). The mind of a mnemonist: A little book about a vast memory. New York: Basic Books. (Reprinted by Harvard UP in 1987)

This case study focuses upon a young man ("S.") with an apparently limitless memory. He eventually earned his living by performing publicly as a mnemonist. Luria details the findings of both experiments and interviews carried out to understand S's memory.

Luria, A. R. (1972). The man with a shattered world. New York: Basic Books. (Reprinted by Harvard UP in 1987)

This famous case study describes a World War II soldier who survived a major brain injury and kept a journal of his attempts to make sense again of the world after his trauma.

Luria, A. R. (1979). The making of mind: A personal account of Soviet psychology (M. Cole & S. Cole, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Luria, A. R. (1990). Cognitive development: Its cultural and social foundations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

An account of Luria's findings from his 1930s field work in the steppes of Central Asia on the impact of cultural change and processes upon cognitive functioning.

Nochi, M. (1998). "Loss of self" in the narratives of people with traumatic brain injuries: A qualitative analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 46, 869-878. (a)

Nochi, M. (1998). Struggling with the labeled self: People with traumatic brain injuries in social settings. Qualitative Health Research, 8, 665-681. (b)

Nochi, M. (2000). Reconstructing self-narratives in coping with traumatic brain injury. Social Science & Medicine, 51, 1795-1804.

The three references above from Masahiro Nochi draw upon the results of his 1998 dissertation in health and social psychology at Syracuse University undertaken among 10 persons with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Nochi examines various aspects of the loss and recovery of self following injury in a review of narrative data gained from his participants. He details active processes of interpretation that TBI patients utilize as they attempt to make sense of their post-injury situation within wider social contexts.


Sacks, O. (1985). The man who mistook his wife for a hat and other clinical tales. New York: HarperCollins. [RC351.S195 1985]

Classical case studies (stories) of authors' patients with various neuropsychological impairments.

Sacks, O. (1990). Luria and "romantic science." In E. Goldberg (Ed.), Festschrift for Alexandr Romanovich Luria. New York: Institute for Research in Behavioral Neuroscience Press.

Sacks, O. (1995). An anthropologist on mars: Seven paradoxical tales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. [RC351.S1948 1995]

More clinical case studies in neuropsychology with a decided narrative emphasis.

Scott, R. M. (1993). Narrative memory for ecologically salient material in the closed head-injured patient. (Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ, 1993). Dissertation Abstracts International, 54 (03), 1703B.

Scott tested 38 adults (19 with closed head injuries [CHI] and 19 normal matched controls) for their memory of the television program, LA Law. A range of mixed results were found in the memory performance of the CHI subjects compared to normals with the level of internal narrative structure emerging as an important differentiating variable. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of the cognitive rehabilitation of amnesic head-injured adults.

Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind: Toward a neurobiology of interpersonal experience. New York: Guilford Press.


    Primary Focus: Cognitive Science

Bloom, R. L., Obler, L. K., DeSanti, S., & Ehrlich, J. S. (Eds.). (1994). Discourse analysis and applications: Studies in adult clinical populations. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [RC423.D56 1994]

What is the nature of discourse and story production in normal and brain-damaged adults? The introduction and 12 essays in this edited volume provides a first substantial gathering of papers by neuropsychological and other researchers interested in this area. Both theoretical and clinical issues are reviewed. The authors believe that discourse analysis ("a host of techniques designed to describe how subjects order information and relate ideas across sentences" p. x) promises significant insight into the lives of neurologically-impaired persons.

Davis, M. & Travers, M. (2003). A Brief Overview of the Narrative Intelligence Reading Group. In M. Mateas, & P. Sengers (Eds.), Narrative intelligence (pp. 27-38). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Company. Available for download (pdf file).

Deacon, T. (1997). The symbolic species: The co-evolution of language and the brain. New York: Norton.

Fauconnier, G., & Turner, M. (2002). The way we think: Conceptual blending and the mind's hidden complexities. New York: Basic Books. (Link to book description)

Gillespie, D. (1992). The mind's we: Contextualism in cognitive psychology. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Press.

Herman, D. (2000). Narratology as a cognitive science. Image and Narrative, 1(1). Link to article.

Examines the 1999 MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences (MITECS) and indicates advances in cognitive theory which have important implications for narrative.

Kintsch, W. (1994). Text comprehension, memory, and learning. American Psychologist, 49(4), 294-303.

Mateas, M., & Sengers, P. (Eds.). (2003). Narrative intelligence. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins

Papers concerned with NI "the confluence of narrative, Artificial Intelligence, and media studies - [which] studies, models, and supports the human use of narrative to understand the world." (blurb at publisher's site.)

McKoon, G., Ratcliff, R., & Seifert, C. (1989). Making the connection: Generalized knowledge structures in story understanding. Journal of Memory & Language, 28(6), 711-734.

Schank, R. C. (1973). Conceptualizations underlying natural language. In R. C. Schank & K. M. Colby, (Eds.), Computer models of thought and language (pp. 187-247). San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.

Schank, R. (1982). Dynamic memory: A theory of learning in computers and people. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Schank, R. (1986). Explanation patterns: Understanding mechanically and creatively. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Schank, R. C. (1990). Tell me a story: A new look at real and artificial memory. New York: Charles Scribner.

Schank, R. C. (1995). Tell me a story: Narrative and intelligence. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. (Reissue of Schank, 1990, with new forward by Gary Saul Morson)

Schank, R. C. (1996). Goal-based scenarios: Case-based reasoning meets learning by doing. In D. Leake (Ed.), Case-based reasoning: Experiences, lessons & future directions (pp. 295-347).  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.  Available online at Cogrints archive.

Schank R. C., & Abelson, R. (1977). Scripts, plans, goals, and understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Schank, R. C., & Abelson, R. P. (1995). Knowledge and memory: The real story. In R. S. Wyer (Ed.), Knowledge and memory: The real story (pp. 1-85). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate. Available online at Cogprints archive.

Sengers, P. (2000). Narrative Intelligence. In K. Dautenhahn (Ed.), Human cognition and social agent technology (pp. 1-26). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Bejamins.

Thorndyke, P. W. (1977). Cognitive structures in comprehension and memory of narrative discourse. Cognitive Psychology, 9(1), 77-110.

Turner, M. (1997). The literary mind: The origins of thought and language. New York: Oxford University Press. (Link to description and March 1997 Discover Magazine review.)

Probably the strongest current proponent of the linkage between cognitive activity and narrative. "The literary mind - the mind of stories and parables - is not peripheral but basic to thought. Story is the central principle of our experience and knowledge. Parable - the projection of story to give meaning to new encounters - is the indispensable tool of everyday reason. Literary thought makes everyday thought possible. This book makes the revolutionary claim that the basic issue for cognitive science is the nature of literary thinking." (from book jacket blurb)

van Oort, R. (2001). The cognitive and anthropological origins of narrative. In L. Zunshine (Chair), Cognitive approaches to literature. A symposium at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, New Orleans, LA.

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Hevern, V. W. (2004, November). Neuropsychology and Cognitive Psychology. Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved [enter date] from the Le Moyne College Web site:

     Narrative Psychology: Internet and Resource Guide
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