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DARPA Wants To Know How Stories Influence People

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the greatest-story-ever-told dept.

Security 87

coondoggie writes "DARPA in a nutshell wants to know how stories or narratives influence human behavior. To this end, they are hosting a workshop called 'Stories, Neuroscience and Experimental Technologies (STORyNET): Analysis and Decomposition of Narratives in Security Contexts,' on Feb. 28th to discuss the topic. 'Stories exert a powerful influence on human thoughts and behavior. They consolidate memory, shape emotions, cue heuristics and biases in judgment, influence in-group/out-group distinctions, and may affect the fundamental contents of personal identity. It comes as no surprise that these influences make stories highly relevant to vexing security challenges such as radicalization, violent social mobilization, insurgency and terrorism, and conflict prevention and resolution. Therefore, understanding the role stories play in a security context is a matter of great import and some urgency," DARPA stated.'"

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Propaganda (3, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162244)

Stories are often a delivery method for propaganda (even the good-safe-happy Aesop kind), and almost any bit of propaganda can be framed into a narrative story. The effects and influence of propaganda campaigns have been studied well previously. Start there.

Re:Propaganda (3, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162434)

It's not just propaganda. Most people think narratively, not logically. Instead of based on whether the facts and evidence are consistent and logically support a hypothesis, most people try to slot the world into stories they've heard, or believe in. Stories shape the way people think in powerful ways.

Consider the /. post a couple down from this one Secret Plan To Kill Wikileaks With FUD Leaked [] . You've got people jumping on the notion that Wikileaks' recent problems are the result of an orchestrated plan to destroy it. Of course, logically, the facts don't fit, the timeline is all wrong. But people will believe it anyway, since it fits a narrative structure they've learned from books and movies and other sources of fiction.

Re:Propaganda (2)

thehostiles (1659283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162920)

This doesn't just apply to stories, but to experiences as well. Memory is faulty and we fill in things we miss with our imagination. I think stories are the least of the major applications for this desceptive, but powerful research.
Consider advertising in the original sense of propaganda, government speeches, film and other media having this applied to them..

Re:Propaganda (0)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35164044)

On a grander scale, that how insane conspiracies continue to live on; such as with the 9/11 Truthers. And that likely applies here. It doesn't matter that the facts don't support your conspiracy. All that matters is that propaganda fits the narrative people already know (government is bad). In my own opinion, much of the same applies to the pro-pirate fan base and their anti-corporate/money ideology (corporations are bad).

In essence, the more you can re-enforce the narrative with propaganda, the more the propaganda re-enforces the narrative. It more or less becomes self fulfilling prophecy. So it makes complete sense if you can shape the narrative through propaganda, you have a powerful weapon at your disposal.

Re:Propaganda (1)

AppleOSuX (1080499) | more than 3 years ago | (#35165448)

On a much, much grander scale you have people who are in denial that _their_ government would do such things as 9/11, even though conspiracies and governments go hand in hand throughout history.

Saying that it's not even possible is just as bad as people who claim to know every piece of every puzzle.

Re:Propaganda (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35165552)

I'm not sure if you're trolling or not but I guess I'm biting.

Factually, the government is known to have done some really bad things. Factually, there is no evidence the government was involved in 9/11. Factually, there is tons of evidence it was done completely independently of government support. Factually, everything Truthers have brought up as a point of contention has been shot down by subject matter experts and all too frequently, physics.

My post did not say conspiracies don't exist. They absolutely do. The point being, despite Truthers being borderline certifiable, their "evidence" fits their narrative (evil government) and therefore must be true regardless of the fact that everything, and I mean everything, says they are bat-shit crazy...and yet the conspiracy lives.

Re:Propaganda (1)

AppleOSuX (1080499) | more than 3 years ago | (#35165784)

"Factually, Factually, Factually...9/11"

Do you, hold all of these facts in your head or have you done extensive research into the subject where you've verified and authenticated all of your sources? Do the "facts" that you're referencing fit into your own narrative in your head?

Re:Propaganda (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35166212)

Do you, hold all of these facts in your head or have you done extensive research into the subject where you've verified and authenticated all of your sources?

Both. The fact you're asking means YOU'VE not bothered to do any real, honest research into both sides of the story and have rather allowed yourself to be shoved bullshit by conspiracy buffoons.

There are endless amounts of information and even very detailed documentaries which exist specifically to dissect the propaganda put forward by the Truthers. Literally, the Truthers have no legs to stand once you bother to look at any of the real evidence.

The History Channel or Discovery (forget which) has a very nice series of documentaries where they attempt to gather evidence. The even hire subject matter experts and conduct tests. They even interviews with yet more subject matter experts. They could not find any credible evidence, not one bit, which supported the Truthers in the least. Likewise, without fail, when their panel of Truthers were shown the evidence which clearly proved they were full of shit, all of them refused to accept it. Their only excuse was that somehow, physics in the universe stopped working on those towers that day and therefore, their conspiracy explanation was the only explanation. Oddly enough, all in the panel make money from continuing the conspiracy.

Ignoring that, computer simulations, which generically exist to simulate real world physics, all completely validate the official story of building collapse. Even the penetration on the Pentagon was so accurately reproduced, it properly placed bodies and debris inside the build+debris field.

Ignoring the facts, just think about probabilities. What are the odds that some 10,000-50,000, from the general public, would be able to remain quiet in what would be one of the world's biggest and most Earth-shattering conspiracies in history? Think about that for a second. And yes, those number has been tabulated by experts, and that's the range they've determined, depending on who you talk to. You can be absolutely sure that if such a conspiracy existed, Wikileaks would be having a field day with it - and long ago.

Critically look at what's available. Nothing the Truther's say make the least bit sense. All too often they refuse to accept basic physics. Yes, basic physics is in denial here. The logistics are mind boggling if not flat out impossible. The conspiracy with so many people from the general population angle is also all but impossible. Literally, absolutely nothing makes sense and none of their "evidence" survives the least bit of scientific scrutiny. None of it.

So which is more likely? A massive conspiracy which is all but impossible whereby absolutely no other evidence exists to support; or, every bit of evidence which exists which is shown to completely invalidate the conspiracy? Its an easy choice for anyone who cares about facts and truth rather than a wish to satisfy their own internal narrative (evil government).

Long story short, there is absolutely zero credible evidence that the official story does not completely explain the attacks on 9/11.

Re:Propaganda (0)

AppleOSuX (1080499) | more than 3 years ago | (#35166446)

" The fact you're asking means YOU'VE not bothered to do any real, honest research into both sides of the story and have rather allowed yourself to be shoved bullshit by conspiracy buffoons."

I stopped reading after this sentence. You have displayed a predilection towards jumping to conclusions in multiple places. The Bozo bit has been flipped. Take 'er easy buddy!

Re:Propaganda (0)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35167032)

The assumption is an easy one to make given the position you've established in your previous posts. If my assumptions are wrong, correct me. I'm not so proud.

But...your response is hardly surprising. When your conspiracy is blown to shit and proves you're an idiot, just like the panel I referenced, your only option is to retreat into delusion or to ignore the facts. You've picked both.

The Bozo bit has been flipped.

I absolutely agree - you have flipped out and eventually hit the Bozo bit. Again, your response completely validates everything I've said up to this point.

Seriously, if the conspiracy has any credibility, set me straight. How is it that all experts are wrong and you are correct?

You have my pity.

But, but, but: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35164930)

"You've got people jumping on the notion that Wikileaks' recent problems are the result of an orchestrated plan to destroy it."

Ah, but your post is part of that conspiracy!

The news of the plot to kill wikileaks via fud was just barely posted, and suddenly people are crawling out of the woodwork loudly saying that the timeline doesn't work, and the facts don't fit all in an attempt to obscure the truth.

And Darpa is involved, for heavens sake! What can it be but a military conspiracy?

Therefore, it must be true!

Re:But, but, but: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35165348)

What would you think if someone said "Therefore, it must be possible!" instead?

Would you say that it's impossible? If so, you're just as bad as the guy that says "Therefore, it must be true!".

Re:But, but, but: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35166312)

I wouldn't call it impossible. But note that "things that aren't impossible" also includes all of the air in a room just happening to be in the left half due to random motions.

i.e. Have an open mind, but don't let your brain fall out.

Re:Propaganda (1)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35167818)

In fact, I would say that the norm is for conceptual knowledge to be accessible by narrative form only, at least at first, only to be replaced more accurate schematics after more extensive experience and in depth study of the topic, if ever. (e.g. "Mister Sodium has an extra electron outside his complete shell; So by lending it to Miss Chlorine, she complete her outer shell, and they are both happier.")

So it is not just a coincidence that people are easily influenced by stories, because they do not ever think about hard topics outside their field of expertise as something other than a narrative that sounds good.

Re:Propaganda (1)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35168580)

Denying a conspiracy involving WL is just the sort of thing I would expect from someone named jpmorgan!

Re:Propaganda (3, Insightful)

Atrox666 (957601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35163050)

Why do you think we have so much fantasy media where the rogue cop is the good guy.
It's all propaganda.

Re:Propaganda (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35164820)

Or the crime shows where the police follow the evidence to the criminal, rather than just interviewing everyone involved, picking someone they think is guilty, and then building a case against them.

Re:Propaganda (1)

Paul1969 (1976328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35170854)

Ever watch the real-reality show "48 Hours"? It follows actual homicide cops as they investigate actual cases.
Watching it regularly has taught me that in the real world, useful forensic evidence is extremely rare. The vast majority of solved cases get solved because somebody rats out the perp(s).

Re:Propaganda (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35163816)

The recipe is intuitively known to politician since ages. All you have to do is put together sentences that are grammatically correct and that put close to each others words that you want people to make an association between. "Freedom" and "intervention", "islamic" and "terrorism", "surgical" and "strike".

Of course, logic is irrelevant in those sentences. Better : if they are illogically irrelevant, your adversaries will be tempted to expose the fallacy, which is usually done thanks to long sentences that will make it hard to use the same trick.

Ask Fox News viewers (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162258)

They'd be a great test group.

They just want to know (1)

SquirrelDeth (1972694) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162266)

what stories in the new are going to piss you off so they can do an even better job censoring the news in the future.
But on a serious note if you tell some one a bad story they get upset, happy story and they get happy. Duh it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out just a government employee.

Job Security is the only security (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162282)

DARPA has no intention of putting itself out of business. Their results will be biased.

Re:Job Security is the only security (3, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162768)

"Once upon a time, in a suburb of the capital of a large and powerful nation, there was a little agency called DARPA. DARPA was hard working and industrious and friendly and valuable to the nation, but DARPA lacked all the funding it needed! Oh, what was DARPA to do?"

Re:Job Security is the only security (4, Interesting)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162890)

Why are they spending tax payers money for what is already known and available through any field of story writing, be it fiction or fact or some combination?

If there is any urgency it only because the near 7 billion people on this planet are starting to wise up to the less than 1% fabricating crap that causes problems for the rest of us. Ultimately we all are not going to need or be able to afford the ongoing BS produced by politicians and control freaks of war game players Instead those wasted resources on destructive technology can be far more effective in fixing real world problems and hence greatly reducing motivations of war and terrorism and... bla bla bla destructive fabrications for the self supported dependencies of the addicted to the mental handicap of having a lack of morals and ethics. And there can be plenty left over to put them into rehab for life.

What the World Wants, but not the mentally handicapped control freaks [] otherwise it'd already be happening.

What we have instead is even more on defense for 2011 than shown HERE []

This is for science. (3, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35164948)

Their goal is to formalize the study of stories so that they can develop quantitative methods of tracking understanding stories. Whenever a new plant is "discovered" there are a bunch of people like you who say "well, the natives already knew of it". Yes, everyone knows about stories. But there is not a formal scientific approach to dealing with them, so they have a lot of untapped potential from a social engineering perspective. It's like building a bridge without a quantitative approach to design. Yes, people did it for thousands of years, but once they figured out the science behind it they got a lot better at it. DARPA is hoping they can achieve the same thing for stories.

Their intent is to use this for military applications, but it's better than bombs, right? I'd rather fight wars through stories, honesty.

Re:Job Security is the only security (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35164830)

DARPA has no intention of putting itself out of business. Their results will be biased.

DARPA does a lot of research. Some of it has practical applications. Some of it doesn't. What has had practical use has been so useful that they can do a lot of other science projects without really worrying about funding. In short, they don't need to worry about the results of any one project being good or bad for them as an institution. Put the tin hat away. They are not going to bias results and create a non-functional result. Which would, in the end, reflect back on them.

The potential usefulness of this is not so much for censorship / control as it is to see how to frame our arguments to reach other people. For example, how do you convince someone who sees the U.S. as "the great Satan" that we might have a good point? How do you convince extremists (or potential ones) that there are other ways. You have to interject the information in a format / narrative structure that will reach it's target audience. That's the potential defence application. If I was you I'd worry more about what the damn advertising people will do with it... that should scare you :D

How about the Bible? (2)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162318)

I would say stories can change quite a lot.

Re:How about the Bible? (0)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35163526)

How can we tell what affect it had? I think without the Bible, mankind would still exhibit the same tendencies and sentiments, but with a little different branding. Nothing would be very different.

I always wonder how North America would have turned out differently if some or all of the "founding fathers" hadn't formed a movement when they did. What if there hadn't been a revolutionary war? All of Britain's other far-flung colonies reached independence one way or another, sooner or later (Canada, Australia, India...) and many turned out fairly similarly, so the revolution(s) in the American colonies were clearly part of a much larger trend. But probably the American revolution hastened the others by weakening the Empire? And so on.

Re:How about the Bible? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35164998)

There are large gaps, culturally, between the western world (Europe and the Americas) that is influenced by the Bible, and the Eastern world (China, India, etc.) that are not.

Re:How about the Bible? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35166348)

So without the Bible, culture would have been homogeneous throughout the world? That's obviously false. Clearly there were differences before it was written, which is why it's different than far-eastern texts in the first place. I agree it helped solidify what we call "western culture," then again without it something similar might have gained traction and filled that role. There's no way to know, because counter-factual histories are just as uncertain as the future is.

My point isn't that nothing has any effect, only that it's hard to quantify. But I do think we simplify history by overstating the importance of certain people and events, neglecting the fact that circumstances were bound to lead to similar events. And that is central to the functions of story-telling and myth-making. (It's a big part of what we now call "controlling the narrative.")

Re:How about the Bible? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35168658)

The large cultural differences you see mean that cultures do not evolve to be more or less the same. The differences could be genetic, or geographic, but there's little reason to believe that is the case. And culture can influence either of these (genetics through sexual selection, geography because people chose where they live). If you subscribe to the theory that it is a chaotic system, then it is indeed possible that something as simple as a story can have far-reaching effects. But if you believe culture is more pre-determined, then the present world doesn't really make sense. It would be, like you say, more homogeneous.

Re:How about the Bible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35167846)

Britain probably wouldn't had any colonies without Bible and there possibly wouldn't have even existed a collection of country like areas called Great Britain without it. In Europe, the religious wars wouldn't have created the seeds of modern diplomacy. Stories create peace, war, culture, anarchy, religion and everything else which existence is depended upon the more modern parts of human brain. These, in turn, raise emotions as we attach misconceived notions of personality to the stories. There, that was an emotional story too, filled with religious notions from the East.

McCarthyism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162322)

Huh... I had a feeling that McCarthyism [] was back.

End run around free speech here we come (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162334)

Since the constitution forbids them to stop people from publishing and telling stories they will just go the chilling effect route instead. Once they have the "evidence" they need they get the powers to act legislated. Pretty so its going to be, "Sir you have the right to check out this library book; but if you we have to put you on the No-Fly List as its been show this book might turn you into a terrorist."

Re:End run around free speech here we come (0)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35163674)

Who needs an end run when religious prudes drilled a giant hole straight through?

Just declare anything you don't like "obscene".

Why I became a Terrorist: (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35164406)

I was just a boy when the infidels came into my village in their Black Hawk helicopters. The infidels fired at the oil fields and they lit up like the eyes of Allah. Burning oil rained down from the sky and cooked everything it touched. I could only hide myself and cry as my goats were consumed by the fire of black liquid death. In the midst of the chaos, I could swear that I heard my goats...screaming...for help. As quickly as they'd come the infidels were gone. It was on that day... I put a jihad on them.

And if you don't believe it, then you'd better kill me now, because I'll put a jihad on you too.

Case in point... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162336)

A college student watches "The Social Network" and immediately throws their future away on a web 2.0 startup. DARPA might be on to something here.

mind control? (0)

TimeLincoln (1993960) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162364)

If they want to learn about mind control, they should watch more Fox News.

Maybe they can combine it (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162366)

With a study on video games... You can't have enough studies on this stuff, no matter how redundant they are.

Do they ... (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162432)

... want to tell better stories? Or study the mythology of a culture to better understand their thinking? The former is a difficult problem, as attempting to inject new tales into a group is difficult. Aesop isn't writing any new fables, so anything unfamiliar or that doesn't jive with the established culture will stand out. The latter is a worthwhile endeavor. Many of our f*ckups in dealing with various groups stem from our cultural insensitivity. If we can learn to understand them based on their folklore, we may end up not falling on our faces quite as often.

Re:Do they ... (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35165102)

I think the idea is that they can use this, along with information tracking, to see political events such as the riots that are now taking place in the middle east before they happen, and so that they can understand how to prevent them. And so that they can understand and engineer stories that will be effective in influencing people across cultural divides. They want to be able to do this with AI, so they need a formal scientific approach.

Re:Do they ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35166494)

I think the idea is that they can use this, along with information tracking, to see political events such as the riots that are now taking place in the middle east before they happen,


and so that they can understand how to prevent them.


And so that they can understand and engineer stories that will be effective in influencing people across cultural divides.

Really bad.

They want to be able to do this with AI, so they need a formal scientific approach.

Hopeless. So I guess the good/bad stuff will all be hypotheical in the final analysis.

Oh, oh, I had this class! Folklore 4000! (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162450)

Actually, I think it was ENG 4160 or something like that, but the short name of the class was "folklore" with emphasis on oral transmission. 10 years ago I argued that the "oral" part was obsolete because of the advent of the Internet, and I was shot down by the Luddite professor. I wonder how the class is taught today?

Example 1: The Bible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162468)

You need only look to what actions are taken in the name of a $deity from any religious text to gauge the impact that stories have on people, their behavior, and it's effects on society as a security threat.

Trolling? Hard to troll on this subject with all the blood spilled throughout history in the name of the invisible sky wizard of your choosing.

/flame away boys! flame away.

I'm sure (1)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162562)

DARPA the defense department research arm is obviously wanting to find out how propaganda works so they can form new propaganda and combat others propaganda. This is meta communication like the old idea of subliminal advertizing. They could just interview Carl Rove, that is his specialty. Finding the wedge issues like Gay Rights and the stories around what that is so bad and you should not pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Since it is Governement funded research, I wonder if we will find out about it or will it be classifed?

Maybe good? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162580)

Maybe they can come up with counter-memes against Islamic (and other types of) fundamentalism.

Wasn't there a novel like that? Some big, organized plan to undermine the legitimacy of some holy book by faking archaeological evidence amongst other methods. Maybe it was a movie, too.

Three men make a tiger (2, Interesting)

SloppyElvis (450156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162586)

Reminded me of this: []

Re:Three men make a tiger (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35165058)

I love this story! More people need to read it.

Re:Three men make a tiger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35199158)

Sounds like an urban legend to me. No proof that DARPA ever did such a thing.

People actually believe Hollywood is real (1, Interesting)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162622)

It doesn't take a DARPA grant to know that lots of people believe every film that Michael Moore and Oliver Stone make is factual and without bias. On second thought, Step 1: Take the grant money. Step 2: Spend five minutes debunking those films. Step 3: Profit.

Fox News (4, Funny)

sir_eccles (1235902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162656)

People apparently watch Fox news and believe everything they are told. I think it's some kind of witch craft, probably Obama's fault too.

Re:Fox News (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162700)


mod parent up. excellent use of sarcasm

If This Goes On— (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162680)

From the Heinlein Concordance [] :

connotation index

        A tool used to measure the emotional impact of a word or phrase: a "complex variable function depending on context, age and sex and occupation of the listener, the locale and a dozen other things." Psychologists used the index to gauge the effectiveness of propaganda.

Political Manipulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162704)

Study the political keyboard warriors who spin political tales quite successfully. Witness disgraced heroes and cowards elected POTUS with sensational lies. The pundit parrots guarantee BS saturation in this rubber necked society.

Or they can just ask Karl Rove.

it is called propaganda (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162710)

it is a serious psychological and sociological force in the world. al qaeda does it. fox news does it. its a part of our reality

Remember Hitler? CNN? Fox News? and Dan Rather? (2)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162732)

Apparently DARPA does not. Just crack open a history book an read. For example, Hitler was an expert at the "Big Lie" and could feed people a line of BS (ahem, I meant "propaganda"). Also, it's not just what you say, it's how you say it.

Besides, if you want to really, really want to get this down, just get the news media to explain it to you. CNN, Fox News, and many "journalist" personalities could teach DARPA exactly what they want to know.


ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162736)

Wow. That's a moronic name. That lowercase Y is ridiculous in so many levels...

Re:STORyNET? (3, Funny)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162970)

It's a code. If you spell it backwards and remove the 'y' you get TEN ROTS. This is obviously telling us that these 'stories' they want to come up with will really be secret messages encoded in ROT10. I've probably said too much.

Re:STORyNET? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162996)

Wow. That's a moronic name. That lowercase Y is ridiculous in so many levels...

says 'ifiwereasculptor', ha!

I see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162738)

I can see where they are coming from and what they are trying to achieve, but it can't work. There is inherent drive for change in human mind, fueled by curiosity, intelligence and boredom, and no matter how much you try to pacify it, it will only get more restless ... or suicidal. Besides, narratives (especially short forms: jokes, myths, tips, etc.) are very viral and you can't control their spread, unless you control each and every one human there is. They are conveyed further on if they resonate with preexisting state of mind of those who learn them, a sort of "lasing" effect. If that preexisting state of mind is induced by environmental conditions (circumstances in immediate society around them) it is just matter of time when sufficiently gifted individuals hidden in the mass will word their collective feelings out in appropriate form. Even if you go Spartan Cryptia down on their to-smart-for-their-own-good Helot asses, it is just postponing the inevitable - even the stupid masses explode eventually.

Nothing, no God, no Science, no violence, no cunning plan can prevent the change when it's due. See Tunis and Egypt.

Narative as Thought Patterns (3, Insightful)

Mateorabi (108522) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162760)

"Darmok, and Jalad... at Tanagra!"

Re:Narative as Thought Patterns (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35163974)

"Temba, his arms wide!"

Re:Narative as Thought Patterns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35164686)

"Shocka! When the walls fell!"

Re:Narative as Thought Patterns (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35170346)

Kirk, climbing a mountain.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162788)

It's cultural, is it not? The value of metaphor and acceptance of history as a window to the future really determines just how people will react to stories.

Just ask any philosopher who has studied his evolutionary philosophy or moral relativity.

Penthouse letters (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162816)

If they want to see how much a story can affect someone and their daily day to day, they just have to get a subscription to Penthouse letters, and have some fun reading the stories.

The impact of stories (1)

Dr. Tom (23206) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162830)

You wanna know how this story influenced me? Here's basically how I read it. "DARPA in a nutshell wants to know how stories or narratives influence human behavior. To this end, they are hosting a workshop called blah blah blah (STORyNET): blah blah blah 'Stories exert a powerful influence on human thoughts and behavior. They blah blah blah, blah blah. It comes as no surprise that blah blah blah blah blah"

Re:The impact of stories (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162984)

Truely you have a dizzying intellect.

What about Cap? (1)

bobbinspenguin (1988368) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162956)

Re:What about Cap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35163864)

discredit the nazis with smutty material (don't think that'd work now - we'd keep it).

The Germans manage to tie the Japanese for disturbingly freaky porn, with extra credit for using real people instead of cartoons.

Holy crap, my degree just became useful! (4, Funny)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35162976)

I worked for the local university, which had a sweet tuition remission policy. I ended up taking classes in anything I was interested in, hopping from college to college. Linguistics, American Studies, Film Studies, lots of literature, some sociology and anthropology... After a few years of this, the university sent me a letter demanding that I declare a degree and f'ing graduate already, or they wouldn't let me take any more classes.

The course load was so varied that it was hard for me to shoehorn it into a single field. I had to figure out what tied them all together.

I realized that I had been studying the ways the stories and cultures interact and affect each other. Lots of semiotics, language, and that sort of idea encoding, but also study of cultural reactions and re-manifestations of stories to "fit the times." Propaganda was a big part of that. (I declared the program in early 2001. That September, I discovered a wealth of research material.)

There was no discrete program to fit that into, but there *was* the catch-all "University Studies" degree: a sort of roll-your-own program that, if you could make a case for hanging your classes together somehow, you could graduate.

I call my degree "Propaganda Studies" for my own amusement, I work in I.T. to pay the bills... but now I can go apply at DARPA! Fat government research grant, here I come!

Am I the first to say it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35162986)

Cool story, bro.

Missionaria Protectiva... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35163094)

So someone at DARPA just read Dune and wanted an excuse to gather some geeks to sit around and chat about it for a few days...

Vote to defund (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35163238)

I thought we had decided as a nation in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting that, in fact, it is absurd to suggest that stories or narrative can influence behavior. Vote to defund this research.

Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35163310)

It would help if they first understood what the word story actually means and represents....

Good Medicine? (1)

imscarr (246204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35163374)

Stories act as a placebo for the mind!

Propaganda, art and rhetoric (2)

oranGoo (961287) | more than 3 years ago | (#35163762)

At a risk of stating obvious I'll point out that stories do much more than 'influence human behaviour in security context'. Stories have shaped entire cultures. (see for example The City of Words by Alberto Manguel, it is a fine read)

If I would to extrapolate I might say that for every action that influenced certain culture it was either direct, like war or famine, or striking gold - but the people who experienced that directly are rarely majority. Most others experience this through retelling. Which can be considered storytelling.
For example the basis of democratic society, an election process, can be considered storytelling in its largest part (cynics would add that in its largest part it is a storytelling of pure fiction).

All of this goes back to rhetoric (be careful in interpreting wikipedia's definition: 'Rhetoric is the art and study of the use of language with persuasive effect' - this art and persuasive effect is essential not only to political and legal speech, but also can be understood as an attribute that, in the end, makes any writing worth reading).

So, in essence they are trying to research analytical and quantitative rhetoric, which I think is a valid effort. Though I would not bet all my money that it is realistic to expect a coherent and testable model without a coherent and testable model of human brain (or at least of linguistic and cognitive areas of it) and society (culture).

Still, military had always had interest in manipulating the moral. Of both sides. It is only natural to research this subject. Don't see it as anything new.

Cute Story (1)

shockbeton (669384) | more than 3 years ago | (#35164254)

I have a cute narrative for DARPA. It's called Fuck You, Thought Police.

Bob was reading a book one day called, Fuck You, Thought Police.

Government thugs broke into his home, beat him, and took him to prison. They said he was a subversive. They said that although he hadn't committed any violent crime in the past, that he almost certainly would based on research conducted by well-meaning geeks who studied the effect of stories on people's thoughts and actions.

Bob was never heard from again.

The end.

Study Milton Erickson's use of metaphor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35164956)

One of the most respected Psychiatrists using hypnosis for therapy in the last 100 years was Milton Erickson [] . He often did his hypnosis subtly by not performing formal trance inductions, but rather sitting down with the patient/client and telling stories.

There is an account of him helping a young boy with his bedwetting problem by leveraging the boy's interest in baseball, versus his older brother's interest in football, and never once speaking to him about the problem his parents brought him in for. He talked to him for the entire session about how crude a sport football is, and how baseball depended upon finesse and control. Noting how a pitcher needs to learn to grip the ball tightly, but let go of it at only the precise moment necessary to get it to fly into the strike zone.

The boy didn't have to face the shame of his problem with Erickson. He just had an engrossing conversation with him that metaphorically related to his problem. He was "cured" in one session.

Go read a book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35165438)

The other side of that - intel (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35166042)

There's another side to that - intelligence. Almost nobody expected the uprising in Egypt two weeks in advance, not even its current leadership. Few saw the downfall of the Soviet Union coming. More insight into noticing when something big like that is coming is useful.

This has been tried before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35166116)

Some old Greek dudes tried to define pure "ideas" and divorce them from semantic and physical limitations, presumably to better communicate. Sure they didn't have the Internet and shadowy agents to ship your ass to an Egyptian torture facility if he disagreed with you (or if your political goals were opposed to his) but whatever.

Considering the endgame description DARPA suggests for such a system, I would rather humanity (myself included) was nuked back to the stone age before such a system could be put in place. How's that for radicalization, you context ignorant eggheads? I hope you choke on your own datastream.

Death to thought crime!

Straight out of Rainbow's End (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35168352)

ISBN 0812536363

Going deep with "what function stories enact" (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35169286)

Recall the Office of Strategic Influence to push happy press material outside the USA. []
Then you also have a new effort in Israel for "new media fighters" to create better blogs/forum post ect.,7340,L-4025751,00.html []
DARPA has seen the simple ideas of 'talking points' fail.
Expect a lot more [] efforts to flush out "digital artifacts" ie keywords on a blog.

Pontypool (1)

Gaian-Orlanthii (1032980) | more than 3 years ago | (#35169550)

Pontypool. Ne pas traduire ce message.

DARPA stupidity--or is it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35172708)

Looks to me like two things: the first is a method for pork-barreling, and some DARPA middle manager has a couple relatives in the psych field. The second is the camel's nose (see stories, above) into the tent for the Defense Department to start regulating the stories made a part of teaching in schools, as well as regulating the reading and storytelling that our children are allowed. Look out, Disney, pretty soon there will be no more stories about people fighting the establishment and winning. It's too dangerous to our government. Last comment: why is the Defense establishment "studying" something that has been know to societies since before writing was invented?

look to the story tellers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35183876)

get Neil Gaiman in on this

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