“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
— Author Philip Pullman
Stories. They can move us to tears, change our minds, influence our behaviors, and even inspire us to action. But it’s worthwhile to ask the question: Why is that?
It’s just the way our brains work…
“Our brains have been evolutionally hardwired to process incoming information through story terms and structures,” writes Kendall Haven, author of Story Proof: The Science Behind The Startling Power of Story. Recent studies into our brain chemistry back him up. As renowned neuroeconomist and author Paul Zak has found, emotional prompting within a story triggers the brain to synthesize a neurochemical called “oxytocin” that switches on the brain’s “attentional spotlight” and triggers feelings of bonding, empathy and narrative transportation. And those feelings move us to make changes in our lives.
…and always have
From Socrates to Cicero to Springsteen, storytelling is how humans have always communicated information, shared experiences, inspired action and persuaded each other to buy into things. In fact, long before things were committed to paper, stories are how information and life lessons were communicated from person to person. It was necessary to our survival. It persists as a universal feature of every country and every culture. Using characters, actions, settings and story arcs, we package up our view of the world in a way that breaks through the clutter, captures imaginations, and stirs emotions.
Stories make ideas stick.
“Storytelling ideally confirms some truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing is a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It allows us to experience the similarities between ourselves and others – both real and imagined.”
— Andrew Stanton, Oscar-winning Filmmaker, Pixar