© 2020

Telling to Understand

The Impact of Narrative on Autobiographical Memory


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Andrea Smorti
    Pages 1-14
  3. Narrative Understanding of the Self

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 15-15
    2. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 17-35
    3. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 51-63
    4. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 65-82
    5. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 83-110
    6. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 111-131
  4. The Narrative Understanding of the Other

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 133-133
    2. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 135-147
    3. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 149-169
    4. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 171-195
    5. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 197-216
    6. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 217-235
    7. Andrea Smorti
      Pages 237-248
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 249-256

About this book


This book illustrates the link that unites memory, thought, and narration, and explores how the act of telling helps people to understand themselves and others. The structure of the book is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the aspect of narrative comprehension—the person as narrator. It identifies two different origins of narrative comprehension (memory and play) and argues that the narratives we produce starting from autobiographical memory are intended to give order and meaning to events that happened in the past, in order to be able to interpret the present. Conversely, the narratives we produce starting from play are aesthetically constructed, not forced to respect reality, and because of this create potential new worlds of understanding. The second part of this book is devoted to the study of narrative understanding as an understanding of the other. Chapters examine the different points of view a listener can adopt in order to interpret the text produced by a narrator and how these points of view can interact with each other. The book concludes with a consideration of narrative comprehension in the digital world, and examines the principal effects of stories and narrative on the notion of self in the realm of the “Internet galaxy.”

Telling to Understand will be of interest to researchers and students in cognitive science, psychology, literary studies, philosophy, education, and educational technology, as well as any reader interested in enlarging their concept of narrative and how narrating modifies the self.


The narrative understanding of the Self Autobiographical memory autobiographical narration memory and narrative narrative dialogue Narration and conversational rules play and narration Stories as tools to solve an anomaly The narrative understanding of the Other Reading, writing and counting The man of multiform ingenuity Narration and fuzzy logic Text and interpretation narrative understanding in the digital age Internet galaxy disappearance of the Self disappearance of the text

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

About the authors

Andrea Smorti has a master degree in Philosophy (University of Florence), a specialization in School Psychology (University of Siena) and in Sport Psychology (University of Rome). He was Dean of the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Florence and he is currently a University Professor in Developmental Psychology in the School of Psychology - University of Florence. Using a Cultural Psychology stance in the last three decades he has been studying the problem of autobiographical narrative in different personal and social contexts, with particular regard to painful and illness experiences. 

Bibliographic information