Using Anecdotes as a Means of Getting Science Out There.
Throughout the introduction of ‘Some We Love. Some We Hate. Some We Eat.’ we hear about Judith, Jim, Carolyn, Sandy, Ron, Sammy & Betty Sue and their stories of various encounters with animals. Through anecdotes the author presents a range of examples on how we deal with animals in different ways and how our attitudes towards them often fluctuate.
Talking about real people and real incidences is a neat way of introducing a subject in an approachable and interesting way. Furthermore it might help the reader relate to what the author is talking about.
Why is it that we mostly respond so well to anecdotes? And, while powerful in their ways of seeking the reader’s attention, are they appropriate for use in communicating science?
Humans respond well to storytelling as we instinctively learn by the experience of others. Telling a story about something that potentially put you in danger will act as a warning or lesson for others not to do the same thing. Throughout time, telling stories has been a good strategy to understand and survive the world and environment that we live in. After all, a big part of our evolving culture is passing on knowledge from one generation to another.
In the case of ‘Some We Love. Some We Hate. Some We Eat’ the use of anecdotes will help us to understand and relate to a concept that could otherwise be difficult to comprehend. How can we know about various attitudes towards animals unless we can hear about other people that are actually expressing these attitudes? Additionally, hearing about other people and their attitudes about animals might very well help to create awareness towards your own animal attitudes and why you have them. Anecdotes act as an encouragement for the reader to ask less obvious questions about their own private feelings regarding animals, and they do so in a less obstructive manner than what a more argumentative or straightforward scientific piece would otherwise achieve.
Positive assertions aside; anecdotes do not come without some limitations. It is important to keep in mind that anecdotes are often examples of curious, peculiar and extraordinary cases and they might not represent the typical. This means that, although they are useful in introducing a topic or presenting different angles, you should be careful of using them conclusively.