Redemptive Stories and Those Who Tell Them are Preferred in the U.S

Kate C. McLean, Brianna C. Delker, William L. Dunlop, Rowan Salton, Moin Syed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The present studies examined the common, but untested, theoretical assumption that those in the United States prefer negative past experiences, such as trauma, to be redeemed, to be resolved in some positive or growth-promoting fashion. Narratives of six types of traumatic events were rated by U.S adults (n = 1872) across six samples and two studies. Confirming pre-registered hypotheses, there was a reliable preference for stories that were redeemed compared to stories that ended negatively, as well as for the narrators of redemptive stories, who were judged as likable and to have desirable personality traits. There was no support for the hypothesis that redemptive stories would be viewed as more common than non-redemptive stories, or that the relation between story type and preference would be mediated by Belief in a Just World. Implications include the compulsory nature of storying trauma and potential risks of these cultural expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 3 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Center for Cross Cultural Research provided a grant to Kate McLean and Brianna Delker to support this study; the University of Minnesota provided a Grand Challenges Exploratory Research Grant to Moin Syed to support this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 University of California Press. All rights reserved.


  • master narratives
  • narrative identity
  • redemption
  • trauma


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