Telling better stories: Competence-building narrative themes increase adolescent persistence and academic achievement

Brady K. Jones*, Mesmin Destin, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


The current studies investigate the power of competence-building narrative themes in adolescents’ accounts of failures and successes to improve school outcomes. Study 1 (N = 62) shows a positive association between competence-building themes (agency in successes, redemption in failures) and adolescents’ goal persistence and grades. In Study 2 (N = 183), a field experiment randomly assigned a treatment group of ninth-graders to include these competence-building themes in accounts of successes and failures. Compared to the control group, they reported increased persistence several weeks after the study and a better trajectory of academic achievement through the third quarter of the school year. In both studies, persistence mediated the association with grades. Further analyses revealed that these effects faded by the end of the school year. This study demonstrates the power and limitations of narrative to influence academic behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-80
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - May 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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