Our brains are changing. The mind transforms and we change how we act with each story we hear or watch.
Through brain scans, neuroscientists have found that visual and auditory stimuli elicit physical and emotional responses beyond prior belief.
Scientists have known for some time that the Wernicke’s area and the Broca’s area in the brain light up as we decode words into meaning during everyday dialogue. The mind’s reaction to storytelling, however, is much more active. Parts of the brain which light up in real-life situations respond to storytelling about such situations in the same way.
Watching a movie in which the character rides a bike activates the motor cortex, as if our brains believe we’re actually biking ourselves. The human mind doesn’t make much distinction between encountering an experience in reality and reading or watching for entertainment.
The New York Times reported a study in March, “What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive.
Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.”
This also means that when a communicator shares a story, the activity in her mind matches the motions in her audience’s minds. It is as if brains of the storyteller and the story-receivers are synchronized.
Storytelling follows a basic cause-and-effect pattern, which our brains are evolutionarily wired to pay attention to.
Cause-and-effect thinking has driven our success as a species since the dawn of Man: We hunt to eat, we eat to survive, we survive to procreate.
The better we are able to understand and engage with the stories we take in, the more easily we adapt to our environments.
For this reason, storytelling is effective at literally changing our minds.
Now, the possibilities of storytelling feel realer than ever before. Sure, words and visuals have inspired us since the days of ancient cave paintings. Yet today we understand that sharing stories does more than engage an audience, it transforms brain chemistry.
To us, this means we have a better chance of motivating others to good through the power of storytelling.
How will you work towards a better world through the stories you tell?