Economics-Humanities Talk With Professor Brendan Anglin


“Narrative Economics” was a talk co-hosted by the IE School of Global and Public Affairs and the Arts and Humanities Division. The talk took place on March 9, and was led by Professor Brendan Anglin of the IE Business School faculty. Professor Anglin describes himself as having a hybrid background in economics and storytelling. Besides working as a professor for over 20 years, Anglin also worked in banking, and for the Irish embassy. The event he led sought to highlight the intersection between economics and humanities through a dynamic presentation, where both in-person and online attendees could participate. 

Throughout the course of the presentation, Professor Anglin pulled from the main ideas of the book “Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events” by Robert J. Shiller. Shiller describes narrative economics as “the study of the viral spread of popular narratives that affect economic behavior.” Professor Anglin then elaborated on the central propositions of narrative economics. 

The first proposition is that, in reality, important narratives only comprise a very small percentage of popular talk. When economic narratives do appear in conversation, oftentimes the same, few narratives are propagated. He explains that this phenomenon allows economic narratives to survive over the years, as they are not discussed frequently and refuse to die over time. 

Another proposition surrounding economic narratives is that “truth is not enough to solve false narratives.” He explained that, as humans, we are much more comfortable with falsehoods, even if they are not factual. In other words, we do not like our own ideas to be challenged, due to the discomfort that comes when we question our beliefs. Additionally, we tend to gravitate towards lies because, sometimes, they can be more exciting than the truth. 

The last proposition Anglin spoke of was that of the “emotional element” of narratives. Essentially, narratives thrive on attachment, human interest, identity, and patriotism. He argued that emotional elements, such as emotional language or hyperbole, can reinforce a story’s main idea in a more convincing manner. 

Towards the end of the presentation, Professor Anglin led a Miro activity, where participants were asked to find narratives surrounding the idea of the “US patriotic consumer.” Students and staff pasted cartoons, quotes, and personal anecdotes to the online Miro board. Anglin then showed how these highlighted the central argument of the book titled “The Patriotic Consumer: How to Buy America.” The activity proved that patriotism is deeply rooted within American spending habits, as there is a sense of country loyalty that is tied to economically supporting one’s domestic economy. 

To finish the presentation, Professor Anglin explained how to best make your ideas “stick”. Using tactics described in Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick,” he walked students through an acronym called SUCCES. SUCCES describes all of the qualities an idea should have to be memorable. Ideas must be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and composed of stories. IE students can keep these criteria and the lessons learned in this workshop in mind, as they move towards their professional future.

Grace Berry
Grace Berry
Fourth year International Relations student from the US. Interested in print and digital journalism, social advocacy, traveling, and learning languages!

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