The Riddle of Fiction

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Jay Allison

Jay Allison is an independent journalist, documentary maker, and leader in public broadcasting. He is a frequent producer for NPR news programs and This American Life, and a six-time Peabody Award winner. He is well known for his various roles as envisioner, curator, and producer of The Moth Radio Hour, Lost & Found Sound, This I Believe—and he co-edited the bestselling books based on that series. He is also founder of, the Public Radio Exchange, and WCAI, the public radio station on Cape Cod where Allison lives with his family.

In the 1944 Heider-Simmel demonstration, members of a study were shown an animation where shapes moved around the screen. What was discovered was that only three people out of 100 saw shapes moving around. The rest all saw love stories and attributed agency and intent to the shapes. They saw a story. Writer Jonathan Gottschall gives the audience of Why We Tell Stories to view the same Heider-Simmel demonstration. What do you see?