I recently finished reading 1,001 Arabian Nights, a book I was interested to read after recalling some of my anthropology lectures. In 1,001 Arabian Nights, an Arabian king named Sharyar discovers his wife has been unfaithful to him. After years of loneliness and anger he decides he must remarry again. However he has so much anger harbored that each morning after the wedding he beheads his new bride. Eventually he marries Shahrazad and on their first night together she offers to tell him a story. As dawn arrives and it is time for her beheading, the story is not done and Sharyar elects to let her live just one more day to finish the story. However each night she tells another tale from Arabian legend and each day the King determines to let her live one more day to tell one more story. After 1,001 nights Shahryar has become so attached to Shahrazad and learned so much from tales laced with morality, kindness and love that he decides once and for all that he cannot live without Shahrazad and takes her for his Queen.
In one of my anthropology lectures this was known as the Shahrazad Effect and was a part of sexual selection theory that suggests that language and talking are costly displays, particularly for men. Data shows significant sex differences between men and women in creativity output, with men having higher levels of output effort, particularly between the ages of 30-45. Further, data shows that men spend nearly twice as much time and effort talking in mixed-sex groups compared to single-sex groups. These data sets help support the idea that talking is used as a way to advertise creativity. Both sexes can benefit from storytelling as a way to entertain others and advertise creativity to capture interest and elevate their own social status. Women can further use this to help find and evaluate a quality mate.
Of further interest is that of hundreds of psychological tasks that have been tested over and over again, only a small handful shows consistent and significant differences between the sexes. Among those, women far surpass men in language, social judgment tasks, empathy and cooperation tasks. Many people now believe that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a far better predictor of success in life than IQ is. While men excel in tasks of geometry, mental rotation and some spatial skills, women hold the edge in social skills.
Can architecture be sold better through narrative and storytelling than flashy images? One marker of high social intelligence is an ability to take the perspective of other people. By using a storytelling technique, architects could place themselves in the mental position of their clients and construct a narrative that would resonate with the client’s needs, desires and fears. Dwelling within and occupying a building over time gives a story to both the building and the users. Perhaps giving the clients a potential offering of stories to come will interest them to learn more and decide build the project and build their own stories.