Sunday, May 28, 2017

Nearly a century before LOLCATS there was Harry Whittier Frees

Many of us are familiar with humorous (LOL = laugh out loud) images of cats with silly captions. The Wikipedia article about LOLcats shows a 1905 postcard of a costumed cat created by the American photographer Harry Whittier Frees (1879 – 1953). Some of his images like the three from 1914 shown above: Fire, A Hungry Bunch, and The Nurse can be found at the Library of Congress web site, and 22 others are at Wikimedia Commons.

William Wegman is another more recent photographer noted for his animal images, mainly his Weimaraners with deadpan expressions. You can see ten of his images in a September 29, 2014 CNN article by  Emanuella Grinberg titled  William Wegman: Why dogs are such a draw. Wegman produced some of them using a 20”x24” Polaroid camera.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Five pieces of bad advice from The Onion on how to conquer a fear of public speaking

On February 27, 2017 The Onion posted a one-minute parody video on How To Conquer A Fear Of Public Speaking that dispensed the following bad advice:

1]  Fill the crowd with a few familiar faces who will lie to you about how it went.

2]  Never start a speech without tossing a few fun-sized candy bars into the audience first to get them on your side.

3]  Close your eyes and breathe deeply before each word during your speech.

4]  Try to imagine everyone in the audience dead.

5]  Take solace in knowing that no matter how bad your speech goes, it will be forgotten immediately upon its conclusion. 

The onion image came from the National Cancer Institute.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The most arrogantly overblown statement about fear of public speaking

In a book titled $3.33 from back in 2011 Jarod Kintz claimed that:

“99% of the population is afraid of public speaking, and of the remaining 1%, 99% of them have nothing original and interesting to say.”

Back on February 17th I blogged about Bursting a hilariously overblown claim that 99% of the world fears public speaking. Mr. Kintz’s quote was repeated in a 2012 Big Fish Blog post titled 25 More Awesome Public Speaking Quotes.
The image was adapted from a 1900 Puck magazine found at the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cotton swabs are sending about 34 children to the emergency room daily

That was the title of an article that appeared on the USA Today website on May 8, 2017. It came from a press release titled Study: Cotton Tip Applicators Injure Children at Surprising Rate which said: 

“Doctors have warned that using cotton tip applicators to clean your ears can lead to injury and infection, but a new study shows that a startling number of children suffer injuries after cotton tip applicators are inserted into their ears. The study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that more than a quarter of a million children were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1990-2010 for cotton tip applicator-related ear injuries, that’s about 34 children every day.

‘Far too many children and parents believe that the ears should be cleaned at home, and that a cotton tip applicator is the tool to do that,’ said Kris Jatana, M.D., a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study. ‘And because this study only captured injuries that were treated in emergency departments, there were likely a lot more injuries to children who were treated by an ear, nose and throat specialist or a pediatrician.’

Of the children treated in emergency departments, more than two-thirds were under the age of eight, and 77 percent of patients were handling the cotton tip applicators themselves. Dr. Jatana says these products should be kept out of the reach of young children, and it’s important for parents to teach older children that cotton tip applicators should never be used in their ears.

‘The ear canals are self-cleaning, so not only is it unnecessary to clean children’s ear canals, but it puts them at serious risk of injury,’ said Dr. Jatana. ‘Cotton tip applicators can easily cause a perforation or hole in the eardrum or push wax deeper into the ear canal where it gets trapped. Injuries can cause infection, dizziness or irreversible hearing loss.’ ”

How could most injuries be prevented? Take those swabs away from children. Tell them if they want to get water out of their ears after a shower or bath, then they should just jump up and down. They’ll probably instead roll up a facial tissue, but won’t be able to push it hard enough to perforate an eardrum.

Where are the detailed results from that study? In an article that will appear in The Journal of Pediatrics by Zeenath S. Ameen, Thiphalak Chounthiarth, Gary A. Smith, and Kris R. Jatana titled Pediatric Cotton-Tip Applicator-Related Ear Injury Treated in United States Emergency Departments, 1990-2010.

What is missing from that press release and article? A context for that 34-a-day number. Where does it fit in a bigger picture compared with other injuries?

For example, how does it compare with skateboarding? I found an article from April 8, 2016 at LiveScience by Sara G. Miller titled Not So Gnarly: Skateboarding Sends 176 Kids to the ER Every Day. That’s five times the number of cotton swab injuries. It reported on results from a 2016 magazine article in Injury Epidemiology by Lara B. McKenzie, E. Fletcher, N.G. Nelson, K. J. Roberts, and E. G. Klein titled Epidemiology of skateboarding-related injuries sustained by children and adolescents 5-19 years of age and treated in US emergency departments: 1990 to 2008. You can read the abstract here at PubMed. Curiously McKenzie, Nelson, and Roberts are with the Center for Injury Research and Policy in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as are Ameen, Chounthiarth and Smith – the first three authors of the article on cotton swabs.

How about other sports? I found a July 2016 report (Statistical Brief #207) by Audrey J. Weiss and Ann Eixhauser titled Sports-Related Emergency Department Visits and Hospital Inpatient Stays, 2013. It came from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). Table 2 listed the Top Five specific sports activities associated with emergency room visits (discharged) for both boys (2789 per day) and girls (1415 per day), and the overall total (4204). As shown above, for boys there were 458 injuries associated with American tackle football, followed by 379 for other unspecified sports activity, and 329 for bicycle riding. For girls there were 181 for school recess and summer camp, 139 for bicycle riding, and 132 for other unspecified sports activity. Running (111) and soccer (110) were almost the same and both more than 3 times that for cotton swabs.    

Table 1 listed the Top Ten specific sports activities associated with emergency room visits (discharged) for both children and adults. I have plotted them in the bar chart shown above, along with the cotton swab and skateboarding injuries. There were almost exactly twice as many (353 per day) soccer injuries as skateboarding injuries, but that was minor compared with the largest category - 1051 bicycle riding injuries. There were a total of 7,688 sports-related Emergency Department visits per day.

Friday, May 12, 2017

An argument about ‘weak language’ that is weak tea


Chapter 4 of Bill Hoogterp's 2014 book Your Perfect Presentation is titled Weak Language: Cut It Down. The section on page 51 titled The Taste of Weak Language says:
"Let's try a little experiment. Fill a glass or cup one-fourth full with a beverage you like – coffee, soda, something flavorful. Now add plain water to the same glass until it is three-fourths full.

How appetizing does it look now?

In theory, it shouldn't be a problem. Water has no taste, so it should have no effect. The same should be true for all the ums, basicallys, and other weak language. They don't mean anything, so what's the harm?

Take a sip of the watered-down drink. How did it taste?

That is what it tastes like to other people's brains when we use weak language. It dilutes and weakens the power of your message."

But that argument is ridiculous, since our filler words are NOT EVER twice what our message is. An article titled Cutting Out Filler Words by William H. Stevenson, III in the February 2011 issue of Toastmaster Magazine discussed the extreme example of Caroline Kennedy who used 27 ‘ums’ and 38 ‘you knows’ (a total of 65 fillers) in a five-minute talk. Let’s assume conservatively she spoke at 80 words per minute for a total of 400 words. Her filler words then would be just 16% of the total, not the 67% of the total in Bill’s ludicrous example. 

Mr. Hoogterp’s 'theory' is a ridiculous straw man! Would anyone really believe that nonsense? Ask the high-school girls in any domestic science (formerly home economics) class. When I was a small child in Knoxville I learned the recipe for iced tea from my mother. If it will be chilled in the refrigerator, then for each cup of hot water you put into the pot you add one tea bag and a teaspoon of sugar (or for Southern sweet tea a tablespoon). To make three cups you need three tea bags, not just one.

Another article by Jessica Bennett titled What a Speech Coach Told Me About “Speaking Like A Woman” (And Why It’s BS) on March 8, 2017 at Fast Company also took on Mr. Hoogterp.

The image of an iced tea glass came from the National Cancer Institute, and the image of a 1935 cooking class came from the Library of Congress.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Should your speech first go to the dogs?

Why not? After all, in the business world it’s dog-eat-dog. On May 7 at CBS News there was an article titled ‘Audience dogs’ help students reduce anxiety over public speaking and an accompanying video. It talked about the Kogod School of Business at the American University providing a canine audience for nervous speakers to use when rehearsing.    

Back on January 30, 2015 I blogged about how Seth Godin gave an incomplete solution for fear of public speaking. Here is the other part he missed. In his post he mentioned using a dog as an audience.

In another post on January 26, 2013 titled Hopping through sixty speeches: Shauna Causey’s Ignite Seattle talk I reported that:

T. J. Walker, who wrote the best selling book T. J. Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations, had coached her to put sticky notes with little faces on her wall as a way to simulate an audience when rehearsing. I’ve also seen suggestions to use stuffed animals, or even pets. (Our cats both get disgusted and leave the room whenever I try to lecture to them).

The listening dog image was extracted from the famous ad for His Master’s Voice at Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two recent cartoons about presentations

On April 11, 2017 Doug Savage’s Savage Chickens cartoon (shown above) was about concentration or attention. On May 6, 2017 Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon was about why imagining a naked audience might not work as a remedy for stage fright.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adulting doesn’t mean what it used to

At the Merriam-Webster web site under the topic of Words We’re Watching there is an article titled Adulting (The verb ‘adulting is all grown up). The current definition is:

“To ‘adult’ is to behave like an adult, specifically to do the things – often mundane – that an adult is expected to do.”

They note that current use for that word took off about a year ago. TIME magazine also discussed it on June 8, 2016 in an article by Katy Steinmetz titled This Is What ‘Adulting’ Means. Not everyone approved. At Cosmopolitan on June 20, 2016 Danielle Tulio ranted to Kindly Shut the Hell Up About “Adulting.

In 2013 there was a book by Kelly Williams Brown titled Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, which was discussed in a June 23, 2013 New York Times article by Aimee Lee Ball titled An Advice book by a 28-Year-Old? Not Quite.

But that Merriam-Webster article noted that back in 1980 adulting was instead used more specifically as a synonym for committing adultery.

A cropped and Photoshopped image of a couple walking into St. Johns College came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A parody of what happens if you overstuff a presentation – The Saddest (Country) Song Ever

On YouTube I found a humorous video that Jason Isbell did last March for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In it Jason claimed to have written The Saddest (Country) Song Ever: a three-hour long, four-chord masterpiece which includes topics such as:


The Troops

Reliable Trucks Gone Done Breakin’ Down

The Devil’s Brown Liquor

The No-Good Bankerman Knocking on the Door with Papers

Ailing Family Dogs

Dying Family Dogs

Ten Thousand Dead Family Dogs

Long-Suffering Single Mother

Money Problems

Tragic Cannon Accident

A Sentient Tractor Wishes It Could Work Harder

Drunk at Custody Hearing

The Old Closed Down Skating Rink

Layoffs at the Baby Shoe Factory

A Man from the City is Mean

Oh No! Another Civil War!

Twin Brothers Have Buzzsaw Accident

Grampa Thinks His Grandson Is Hitler

A Clown Has to Retire

Toothless Dog Can’t Bite Burglar

Pregnant Lady Reads Sad Book

Honor Roll Student Experiments with Liberalism

A Father Outlives His Lawnmower

The Entire Plot of “A Farewell to Arms”

Local Magician’s Funeral

Frankenstein Attacks a Preschool

Presumably having A Farewell to Arms contributed most to the absurd length. (The 1957 movie was 152 minutes long). I suspect Jason got inspired by his cancer song Elephant.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pump up your presentation with inflatable props


On April 25th at Presentation Guru there was an excellent guest post by John Zimmer titled How to “Prop Up” your Next Presentation. But John missed one type of compact, inexpensive props – inflatables. I blogged about them in a February 5, 2010 post titled Add visual interest to your public speaking presentation with balloons and other inflatable props.

You can find obvious ones like a set of six zoo animals (elephant, giraffe, lion, monkey, tiger, zebra) for $22 at Amazon.

There are less obvious ones elsewhere. Suppose you want to talk about a unicorn (a startup company that is valued at over one billion dollars). For $8 at Archie McPhee you can find an 11” long inflatable horn to wear. Want a gag for a Toastmasters meeting? They also have 5” x 5-1/2” Emergency Inflatable Toast on sale for $3 instead of the usual $5.

On January 15, 2014 I blogged about An outrageous prop for a serious purpose – the giant inflatable colon.

The image of a balloon vendor is from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Humorous TJ Walker video on bogus quick fixes for public speaking problems

Yesterday TJ Walker posted a brief video on Facebook titled Magic Green Coffee Beans Won’t Cure Your Public Speaking Problems, But THIS WILL

I don’t recall seeing green coffee beans as a remedy for public speaking problems. They were promoted for weight loss, as reported in an October 22, 2014 Washington Post article titled Researchers retract bogus, Dr. Oz touted study on green coffee bean weight-loss pills

Tapping your face is called the Emotional Freedom Technique, and has been claimed to help all sorts of problems.

The 1864 image of Isham’s Celebrated Stomach Bitters came from the Library of Congress.  

Friday, April 28, 2017

You shouldn’t use an obscure word just because you can

On April 25, 2017 at Speechwriter-Ghostwriter Jane Genova blogged about Alleged Police Brutality – TV Cop Shows Should Be Scripting More Objective Content on Issue.

Her second to fourth paragraphs said:

"As lawyer-journalist Kathyrn Rubino reports at, SCOTUS denied certiorari to the case concerning Houston police officer Chris Thompson and Richard Salazar-Limon.

Essentially the 2010 case involves the allegation that Thompson shot unarmed Salazar-Limon with no provocation. As s result of the wounding, the suspect became a cripple.

In that decision, Justice Sonya Sotomayor dissented. She was joined by Justice Ruth Baker."  

Most people wouldn’t know the difference between a certiorari and a topiary, or the acronym SCOTUS. Translating to plain English - the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to review that case. But there is no Justice Ruth Baker on the court. Jane meant to say Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She could be much clearer if she actually proofread her blog posts.

Jane also had opened by talking about the TV show Blue Bloods but instead used an out-of-date stock photo for Criminal Minds. That’s silly since just on April 21 she had blogged about Blue Bloods and used a logo.  

The image of an elephant topiary by Erin Silversmith came from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How the speech timer at Toastmasters club meetings could provide useful feedback – comments and replies

On April 17th I blogged about How the speech timer at Toastmasters club meetings could provide useful feedback rather than just warning signals – introducing the 21st Century Timing Cards. How they would be used for a 5 to 7 minute speech is shown above.

I only received one comment on this blog. Cleon Cox, III from the Portland, Oregon area just said:

Well done Dr. Garber.”

Cleon runs the Job Finders Support Group, and is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM).  

On April 18th I pointed to that post at The Official Toastmasters International Group on LinkedIn. There were another nine comments made there (cut into paragraphs for readability), which I will share with you here along with my replies to them.


Mike Rafferty, DTM:

There are many other speech lengths besides 5-7 and 4-6 minutes, even in just the CC manual. Sounds overly complicated for something that can be very simple.


Mike: Yes, doing something useful is just slightly more complicated than doing something that’s almost useless.

For the CC manual the only other speech length just is 8 to 10 minutes for Project 10, Inspire Your Audience. It is easily handled just by changing the interval between cards to 2 minutes rather than one minute (and otherwise doing it like the Icebreaker).

Using a two-minute interval also would cover the 8 to 10 and 10 to 12 minute speeches in the Speeches by Management Manual. For the last 12 to 15 minute one, the interval between cards would have to be increased to 3 minutes.

For the Storytelling manual the 7 to 9 minute speeches for the first and fifth projects are a slight problem. There we might use a two-minute interval and display three progress cards before the green at seven minutes. If the Timer explains what he will be doing, then the Speaker shouldn’t be confused.


Teri McDonald, DTM:

Paper is not 21st century. Even though your method gives feedback every minute, it feels an archaic in the digital age. There are great digital tools available for free. I like Timer4TM.


Teri: When the battery on your Android smartphone dies (or catches on fire), it becomes just a dumb brick. You ALWAYS need to have a backup, like Timing Cards. And my method gives feedback at least three times before the green card, not just once per minute. For Table Topics it is every quarter minute, and for Evaluations it is every half minute.


Tim Ramage:

It's an interesting idea. It is nice to have feedback prior to the minimum threshold. Timing of a speech comes down to preparation. A speaker, especially a beginning speaker, should have already prepared to the point that the speech timing is solidified prior to presenting it.

Preparation is a cornerstone of Toastmasters and mentors should be sending that message consistently to their mentees. By the time the green card appears, the prepared speaker knows the material well enough to have a solid idea how to wrap up. That includes beginning speakers. Of course nervousness can derail preparation and timing, but the idea behind preparation is to help assuage the natural nervousness. Provided the club provides a supportive environment, going over time isn't a is something to learn from and improve for the next speech.


“Story Gordon” Hill:

We use a light system and have considered adding a fourth light, a lightning bolt, that is also wired to a speaker's ankle as a terminal reminder, "You're done!" :-D

Gordon: In auto racing there is a Black Flag that means get off the track and go to the pits.
I blogged about it back in 2011. A black timing card (the cover) would tell a speaker that he is so over.


Cliff Milligan, DTM:

Sounds like you are trying to compensate for poor preparation. If you've actually practiced your speech you should know where you are supposed to be at the Green, Yellow and Red markers. If you go over by 45 seconds it isn't the end of the world.

I don't want or need someone tracking every minute of my speech. Sounds like a helicopter parent to me. Speakers should be prepared to cut their speech short if they are running long. We had a new member do their Ice Breaker last meeting and when they were finished with their material they still hadn't hit the Green. I had worked with them beforehand and though the speech could be short and suggested having another section to add if the Green hadn't appeared yet. That is known as good preparation and working with their mentor.

In some of the advanced manuals you have 40 minute speeches. Seems to me like you would need a 5" binder to hold all the various permutations of your card displaying.

REPLY (in two parts)

Cliff's example with an Icebreaker speech illustrates the problem with lack of feedback that I'm trying to solve with these revised Timing Cards. A nervous speaker will be faster in the club than in his rehearsals. If he had those three points of feedback before getting to the Green warning signal, then he might have slowed down. (And I think he meant to say thought rather than though).

I said the Timer could provide useful feedback. If you DTMs don't need it, then just tell him to stay with the old Timing Card format, which we also might call Speech Contest Mode. Go look up the Fact Sheet from July 2015 to June 2016. The annual retention rate of Toastmasters members was only 55.4%. That means that if you started out with 25 members in a club you kept 14 but lost (and then hopefully replaced) 11. That's a lot of new members. Some of them will be nervous and inexperienced.

Cliff: No, you would not need a 5" binder to hold all the various permutations of the cards. It would take less than 20 pages to list all 85 manual speeches (plus Table Topics). Look at the lists from the Boston and Dallas Sunrise clubs.

The rules for displaying either three or four black & white progress cards coming before the Green card can be compactly stated in the following format.
Time to Green card (minutes):[time between progress cards(minutes)].
Here is the list for almost all of them 1:[1/4]. 2:[1/2]. 3:[3/4]. 4 and 5:[1]. 6, 7, and 8:[1-1/2]. 10:[2]. 12 and 15:[3]. 19, 20 and 22:[4]. 26:[5]. 28 and 31:[6].
The fifth project for Specialty Speeches, Introduce the Speaker, has the whole meeting as a time limit. If that was an hour, then it would be 60:[12].


“Story Gordon” Hill:

My goal is to finish in the middle (one minute to go). It gives those who go long some time.


David Lewtas:

If it ain't broke, don't fix (re-fix) it! This topic sounds like someone is bored and trying to create an answer when there really is no question.

Sure, the digital age has been foisted upon us, but that should not automatically take over everything. Many young people don't know how to WRITE their name, and for some people's, it is not readible in any manner of interpretation. Shame on them! Why isn't cursive handwriting taught in many schools?

Back to the digital question: Many people are ADDICTED to their "phones" for all their records and information. Then they cry when it's lost, with no hard-copy back up on phone numbers, etc. Many drive like maniacs when looking at them and they kill innocents. That is mis-usage of course.

Yes, if you need more timing signals, forget it; just LOOK at the timer lights or cards as you are supposed to.


David: The topic of my post was cardboard cards – not anything remotely digital. Your comment sounds like a bad parody of a Table Topics answer. Was this rambling rant REALLY the best you could do after over FIFTY YEARS in Toastmasters? So Sad!

I’m going back to YouTube to watch Carrie Newcomer perform Don’t Push Send.


Kelly Ellenz:

I always wish we had an option of a display timer, like they have at Ted Talks. Those first speeches, I was a person who spoke much faster presenting than practicing, And waiting for the green card actually gave me MORE anxiety. Now a 5-7 minute speech is a breeze, and I give them with 1-2 practice runthroughd. And can adapt on the fly. So, while I do agree this can be coddling. I think many new members neeed a little coddling. Speaking alone is a lot, then having an evaluator, time, ah counter, etc., it all compounds the stress. I think working toward more blind timing over time is a good goal. Most professional speakers get X minute warnings near the end. But when you're first starting out, why not eliminate unnecessary stress, and work on improving the most important parts of speaking - speak clearly, stay within time, eliminate filler words, etc. and all of this can be done with a timer shown or more warning cards.

Of course, speakers who want to compete would want to pass.

Leslie Alvarado:

Oh my goodness David Lewtas, I was just so sure you were going to end your comment with, "AND GET OFF MY LAWN!!!"  Richard Garber, I agree this would be very helpful for us newbies. I just gave my second speech two weeks ago, and it felt like an eternity to get to the 5 minute mark. I thought the timekeeper had lost track, which I've seen happen before. It was definitely a distraction.



It is useful to think of the added feedback from these 21st Century Timing Cards in analogy with training wheels on a bicycle. They can be very helpful for beginners, but not needed by those with more experience.

Cliff Milligan claimed that if you practiced your speech, then you should know where you are supposed to be when you get to the warning signals. So did Tim Ramage.

Conversely if you have not been able to practice your speech, then you should not know where you are. But I also showed the cards being used for the impromptu Table Topics and speech Evaluations, both of which are done without practice. 

Mike Rafferty and Cliff Milligan had complained that I was making things complicated. If I had wanted to, then I would have called for there to always be four progress cards spaced equally before the green card. Their spacing in minutes just would have been the time for the green card divided by five. So, for a four-minute speech the spacing would have been 4/5 minute or 48 seconds, and the cards would be shown at 0:48, 1:36, 2:24 and 3:12. For a seven-minute speech the spacing would have been 1.4 minutes, with cards shown at 1:24, 2:48, 4:12, and 5:56.

The image of a bicycle with training wheels is from Wikimedia Commons, and the gears are a colorized version of an image from Openclipart.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Oral storytelling is the old way of teaching

Lately I am trying to come up with four more speeches for the advanced Toastmasters International manual on Storytelling. I just looked up storytelling at PubMed Central, and found a long, interesting magazine article by Michelle Scalise Sugiyama at Frontiers in Psychology titled Oral Storytelling as Evidence of Pedagogy in Forager Societies. The abstract contained an unfamiliar word to me: ostension, which according to the Oxford dictionary means:

“The action of showing, exhibiting, or making manifest; exhibition, display, manifestation; an instance of this.”

The article abstract (broken by me into two paragraphs) says:

“Teaching is reportedly rare in hunter-gatherer societies, raising the question of whether it is a species-typical trait in humans. A problem with past studies is that they tend to conceptualize teaching in terms of Western pedagogical practices. In contrast, this study proceeds from the premise that teaching requires the ostensive manifestation of generalizable knowledge: the teacher must signal intent to share information, indicate the intended recipient, and transmit knowledge that is applicable beyond the present context. Certain features of human communication appear to be ostensive in function (e.g., eye contact, pointing, contingency, prosodic variation), and collectively serve as ‘natural pedagogy.’

Tellingly, oral storytelling in forager societies typically employs these and other ostensive behaviors, and is widely reported to be an important source of generalizable ecological and social knowledge. Despite this, oral storytelling has been conspicuously overlooked in studies of teaching in preliterate societies. Accordingly, this study presents evidence that oral storytelling involves the use of ostension and the transmission of generic knowledge, thereby meeting the criteria of pedagogy.”

In 2011 Michelle wrote a longer review article for the same magazine titled The Forager Oral Tradition and the Evolution of Prolonged Juvenility. The abstract (broken by me into four paragraphs) says:

"The foraging niche is characterized by the exploitation of nutrient-rich resources using complex extraction techniques that take a long time to acquire. This costly period of development is supported by intensive parental investment. Although human life history theory tends to characterize this investment in terms of food and care, ethnographic research on foraging skill transmission suggests that the flow of resources from old-to-young also includes knowledge.

Given the adaptive value of information, parents may have been under selection pressure to invest knowledge – e.g., warnings, advice – in children: proactive provisioning of reliable information would have increased offspring survival rates and, hence, parental fitness. One way that foragers acquire subsistence knowledge is through symbolic communication, including narrative.

Tellingly, oral traditions are characterized by an old-to-young transmission pattern, which suggests that, in forager groups, storytelling might be an important means by which adults transfer knowledge to juveniles. In particular, by providing juveniles with vicarious experience, storytelling may expand episodic memory, which is believed to be integral to the generation of possible future scenarios (i.e., planning).

In support of this hypothesis, this essay reviews evidence that: mastery of foraging knowledge and skill sets takes a long time to acquire; foraging knowledge is transmitted from parent to child; the human mind contains adaptations specific to social learning; full assembly of learning mechanisms is not complete in early childhood; and forager oral traditions contain a wide range of information integral to occupation of the foraging niche. It concludes with suggestions for tests of the proposed hypothesis."

 An 1866 painting by Carl Gessler titled Spannende Geschichten (Exciting Stories) was cropped from a version at Wikimedia Commons.