The Power of Stories When Filing with USCIS

Stories essentially govern the way we think. Keeping this in mind when filing a petition or application with USCIS is important.
As humans, we will abandon evidence for a good story. Don’t believe it? Let’s look at some studies.


An interesting example comes from a study involving medicine. In this study, participants received information on the effectiveness of treatments as a percentage of those cured . This percentage figure is the “base rate information.” The participants also received a story, which could be positive, negative, or ambiguous.
For example, the positive story read: Gustavo’s decision to undergo Tamoxol resulted in a positive outcome. The entire worm was destroyed. Doctors were confident the disease would not resume its course. At one-month post-treatment, Gustavo’s recovery was certain.
The negative story read: Gustavo’s decision to undergo Tamoxol resulted in a poor outcome. The worm was not fully destroyed. The disease resumed its course. One month after treatment, Gustavo was blind and couldn’t walk.
Participants then answered whether they would undergo the treatment if they had the relevant disease.

So, how should participants have answered, having both a story and the base rate information in hand? Participants probably should have relied upon the base rate information of the effectiveness of treatment, because the base rate information represented a full-sized sample of experiences

See scientists and researchers at work in Richard Tansey’s “The Innocent Eye Test.” Maybe not THESE particular scientists and researchers, but scientists and researchers generally provide great insight into how a USCIS adjudicator might view your petition or application.
But how did participants answer? Essentially, they tossed away the base rate information, opting to rely on the story.
When the participants received a negative story and learned the treatment was 90 percent effective, only 39 percent of the participants chose to pursue the treatment.
When the participants received a positive story and learned the treatment was 30 percent effective, 78 percent of the participants said they would take the drug.
But what does this have to do with assembling immigration applications in a way that follows the best practices? Another study will take us to a place where you can see the connection between the power of the story and the filing of petitions and applications with USCIS.


Sometimes, the price of item seems to act as a story.
Ask yourself, which works betters—a painkiller than costs $2.50 per dose, or the same painkiller discounted and selling at 10 cents?
Rationally, of course, they should have the same effect; however, the pills had very different reported effects.
Eighty-five percent of study participants who thought they took the medicine that cost the higher price reported the medicine was effective (i.e., they had less pain). Meanwhile, 61 percent of study participants who thought they took the medicine that cost only cost 10 cents thought the painkiller was effective.
That’s nearly a 25 percent difference! And, in both cases, the pills were just sugar pills.

What these studies say about immigration filings

It is useful to keep in mind that the adjudicators who review immigration petitions and applications are not always-rational machines. Instead they are warm-blooded and often-irrational humans. How you or your attorney puts together your petition/application package can make a great difference on how your case fares.
When your case is filed in a way that ignores filing best practices, realize that you are telling a story. There are several stories each petition or application unwittingly tells. Many petitioners and applicants think that USCIS adjudicators will judge their application only by the information in it. Interestingly, this thought comes—not from cold, hard data about adjudications—but rather from stories about American fairness and justice.