Here is the full transcript of Nat Kendall-Taylor’s TEDx Talk on How Words Change Minds: The Science of Storytelling at TEDxMidAtlanticSalon conference.
I want to start with a warning today. I realize that beginning with a warning may not be the smartest thing to do, but I’m just going to go for it.
My warning is that although I’m here to talk to you about communications, I actually have zero training in communications, and I’ve never worked in PR. What I am is a psychological anthropologist. And what I study is the way that culture influences how we think, how we process information, how we make meaning of messages, and how we formulate and come to decisions.
And so, as a psychological anthropologist, one of my goals here today is to convince you, is to show you, that this is not true. That we should not be actively dissuading our friends and colleagues from going into anthropology, and that instead, studying culture and how people use it to think is an incredibly valuable tool in the real world, and for our purposes today, can be an incredibly important and effective thing in being a better communicator.
And so, as an anthropologist working in communications, I study two different things. First of all, I study public thinking, not public opinion, not the way that people answer a couple of polling questions here or there, or conduct themselves in a few focus groups in Cleveland or Kansas City – I’m from Cleveland, I can make that joke, that’s okay – but rather how people use culture in a deep and highly predictable way to think about complex social issues; issues like education or mental health, immigration or aging, climate change or race inequity.