Human brain and its parts
In 1748, the British politician and aristocrat John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, used a lot of his free time for playing cards. One of the problems he had was that he greatly enjoyed eating a snack, whilst still keeping one hand free for the cards.
So he came up with the idea to eat beef between slices of toast, which would allow him to finally eat and play cards at the same time. Eating his newly invented ‚Äúsandwich, ‚ÄĚ the name for two slices of bread with meat in between, became one of the most popular meal inventions in the western world.
Now you are very likely to never forget the story of who invented the sandwich. Or at least, much less likely to do so than if it had been presented in bullet points or another purely information based form.
For over 27, 000 years, since the first cave paintings were discovered, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods.
Here is the science around storytelling and how we can use it to make better decisions every day:
How our brains become more active when we tell stories
We all enjoy a good story, whether it‚Äôs a novel, a movie or simply something one of our friends is explaining to us that they‚Äôve experienced. But why do we feel so much more engaged when we hear a narrative about events?
It‚Äôs quite simple. If we listen to a Powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, certain parts in the brain get activated. Scientists call these Broca‚Äôs area and Wernicke‚Äôs area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that‚Äôs it, nothing else happens.
When we are being told a story, though, things change dramatically, according to . 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.
If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up. If it‚Äôs about motion, our motor cortex gets active:
‚ÄúMetaphors like ‚ÄúThe singer had a velvet voice‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúHe had leathery hands‚ÄĚ roused the sensory cortex. [‚Ä¶] Then, the brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like ‚ÄúJohn grasped the object‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúPablo kicked the ball.‚ÄĚ The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body‚Äôs movements.‚ÄĚ
A story can put your whole brain to work. And yet, it gets better:
When we tell stories to others that have helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it, can synchronize, says from Princeton:
‚ÄúWhen the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners‚Äô brains.‚ÄĚ
Anything you‚Äôve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas active, too:
Evolution has wired our brains for storytelling ‚Äď how to make use of it
Now all this is interesting. We know that we can activate our brains better if we listen to stories. The still unanswered question is: Why is that? Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other have such a profound impact on our learning?
The simple answer is this: We are wired that way. A story, if broken down into the simplest form is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think.
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