Published on 23 January 2023
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Why are stories important for society?

Sarah Dillon and Manvir Singh talk to Rory Cellan-Jones about the value of stories, some of the dangers of endorsing stories and the need for narrative evidence to inform decision-making.

Stories can provide new insights into current policy challenges and problems but while listening to them could improve political decision-making, how do we know which ones to trust?

This episode unpacks the value of stories to understand the past and inform current policy debates. Leading experts discuss the origin of stories, the status of storytellers, and the crucial need to listen to stories to improve policymaking. 

This episode is hosted by Rory Cellan-Jones (former technology correspondent for the BBC), and features guest experts Sarah Dillon (Bennett Institute for Public Policy) and Manvir Singh (Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse). 

Listen to this episode on your preferred podcast platform

Season 2 Episode 5 transcript

For more information about the podcast and the work of the institutes, visit our websites at and

Tweet us with your thoughts at @BennettInst and @IASToulouse

Audio production by Steve Hankey
Associate production by Stella Erker
Visuals by Thomas Devaud

About our guests:

Sarah Dillon is Professor of Literature and the Public Humanities in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. She is a scholar of contemporary literature, film and philosophy, with a research focus on the epistemic function and value of stories, on interdisciplinarity, and on the engaged humanities. She is the co-author of “Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning”. @profsarahdillon

Manvir Singh is a cognitive and evolutionary anthropologist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse. His research asks why human societies everywhere give rise to practices and beliefs with striking similarities, with a focus on behaviours such as music, story, shamanism, and punitive justice. His toolkit combines ethnographic research, psychological experiments, and the analysis of cross-cultural databases. He received a PhD from the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in 2020. @mnvrsngh

Rory Cellan-Jones is a former technology correspondent for the BBC. His 40 years in journalism saw him take a particular interest in the impact of the internet and digital technology on society and business. He has written multiple books, including his latest “Always On” which was published in 2021. @ruskin147


The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

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