Stories and Statistics

photo credit: Iwan Gabovitch via photopin cc

photo credit: Iwan Gabovitch via photopin cc

Being an “outlier” has its advantages and disadvantages. When I delivered my short presentation at the Budapest conference for the International Twin Society for Twin Studies and the World Congress of Twin Pregnancies, I was the only speaker who did not have a statistic-based PowerPoint presentation. My sole PowerPoint slide highlighted the primary issues I feel passionate about:

  • Triadic connection of a twin pregnancy
  • Ultrasound examinations/labeling
  • The twin mystique
  • Deconstructing the twin connection
  • Life is not fair, and twins are not equal
  • Resilience, responsibility, and self-reliance

Although I did not have enough time to cover all these issues, I did feel a bit out of sync with the other presenters because my research is based on stories rather than evidence-based practices. Oftentimes qualitative data is not taken as seriously as numbers and percentages.

A wonderful article called “Why Doctors Need Stories” appeared in the opinion section of the New York Times on October 18, 2014. The author, Peter D. Kramer, MD, explained that clinical vignettes have lost their standing in medical journals. However, he made the point that case histories can do much to help patients feel validated, reassured, and encouraged:

Beyond its roles as illustration, affirmation, hypothesis-builder and low-level guidance for practice, storytelling can act as a modest counterbalance to a straitened understanding of evidence … Research reduces information about many people; vignette retains the texture of life in one of its forms.

Though statistics and evidence-based practices will always be essential elements to our understanding of medicine and psychology, my hope is that more people, like Dr. Kramer, may embrace the power of stories to provide valid insight and information.

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