The Repetition-Break Plot Structure: A Cognitive Influence on Selection in the Marketplace of Ideas

The Repetition-Break Plot Structure: A Cognitive Influence on Selection in the Marketplace of Ideas

By
Jeffrey Loewenstein, Chip Heath
Cognitive Science. January
2009, Vol. 33, Issue 1, Pages 1-19

Using research into learning from sequences of examples, we generate predictions about what cultural products become widely distributed in the social marketplace of ideas. We investigate what we term the Repetition-Break plot structure: the use of repetition among obviously similar items to establish a pattern, and then a final contrasting item that breaks with the pattern to generate surprise. Two corpus studies show that this structure arises in about a third of folktales and story jokes. An experiment shows that jokes with this structure are more interesting than those without the initial repetition. Thus, we document evidence for how a cognitive factor influences the cultural products that are selected in the marketplace of ideas.