I’m always on the lookout for information that explains the science behind why storytelling resonates.
The article in Lifehacker, “Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains” by Leo Widrich does exactly that.
And you don’t need to be cognitive neurologist to understand it.
Here’s the thrust:
“If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.”
“When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.”
In short, stories prompt the brain to multitask.
I’ve read many times how the human brain is wired for stories, but Widrich offers an explanation that makes sense for non-scientific folks (like me):
“A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home.”
He’s right. When I buy my favorite biscotti, I haven’t even left the store and I’m already thinking about how I can stash them so others are least likely to snag one, but no one can accuse me of hiding them.
Moving along –
The participants in our storytelling workshops often come from engineering orientations where the concept of storytelling seems intangible, if not downright squishy.
Engineers don’t do squishy.
That’s been my motivation to advance my understanding of the science behind storytelling. For my money – and it does require a $7.95 payment – one of the best articles on this topic came from Scientific American, “The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn.”
You can find another excellent article on this topic in The New York Times highlighted by Widrich, “Your Brain on Fiction.” Warning: The New York Times piece does interview a cognitive scientist and psychologist.
If you have a favorite article on the science behind storytelling, please share it with others in the posted comments.
Note: If you enjoyed this post, the human bot claims you should check out “Words Can Shred: One Storytelling to Another” in which the New Yorker dresses down Jonathan Gottschall and his book, “The Storytelling Animal.”