Stories and the Brain

(PDF complete summary of the video)

If we want it to be memorable, it must be a story.

Bill Harley

In a recent article from Leo Widrich, the founder of Buffer, he outlined the many ways a story can impact our brain in ways that mere facts cannot.

  • regular information activates only our language processing parts in the brain, where stories also activate other areas, such as our sensory cortex or motor cortex – and MORE brain parts are always good right?!
  • when we tell a story, many areas of our brain are activated, and the person listening to our story has the same parts activated by us – this means “By simply telling a story…[we] could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains”
  • when we hear a story, we try to find a way to connect it to our personal experiences, often we will turn a story into our own, re-telling it to someone else, which again means “a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience”

Neuroeconomics pioneer, Paul Zak, says that stories have a potential to change our brain chemistry,

…even the simplest narrative can elicit powerful empathic response by triggering the release of neurochemicals like cortisol and oxytocin, provided it is highly engaging and follows the classic dramatic arc … (from: Brain Pickings)

We will discuss the arc in 1. Writing.