Does conflict improve story dialogue? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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While theorising on what makes a good story goes back over 1000 years, empirical research is more recent, and limited in extent. One almost universally held theory is that conflict improves stories. However, conflict is a broad and poorly conceptualised variable, and there is a dearth of empirical research into its effects on stories. Here we show that one specific form of conflict – conflictual dialogue – does not measurably improve ratings of story quality or how entertaining a story is. We used specially created stories, manipulated to create different levels of conflictual dialogue, in a repeated measures experiment. After the passage of dialogue, participants rated story quality and how entertaining they found the story. While the conflict manipulation was successful, is produced no significant difference in the rating of either quality or entertainment. However, the study may have been under-powered to find a small effect size. Despite the power issue, this study raises questions concerning whether conflict has a meaningful positive effect on the audience appreciation of conflictual dialogue, and may have wider implications for understanding the effects of conflict on stories.