How Stories Impact Our Brains
Crafting a memorable fiction or nonfiction story requires compelling characters with unmet desires, specific and sensory details that fire the imagination, tension, setbacks, a tangible setting, and a delivery with universal appeal. It also requires an understanding of how stories impact the human brain.
Neuroscientists have found that audiences attending a power point presentation experience minimal brain activity. Word recognition centers are activated—and not much more. But when the drama of a well-crafted story unfolds—complete with sensory details—the full frontal cortex lights up. Participants are right there with Eve, tasting that juicy, red cheeked apple. And the teller and the listener fall into sync, with the same parts of the frontal cortex activated in both.
CBC Radio aired a two-part series about the impact of storytelling, suggesting we’re hardwired to respond to stories, dating back to our primordial ancestors. The concepts explored have deep insights for writers, providing a glimpse into what documentary-maker Chris Brooks says is the “irresistible spell” of narrative. “We go to stories to be surprised,” said Brookes in his set up for The Evolutionary Origins of Human Storytelling: Vestigial Tale. And he presents some surprising findings in interviews with a variety of experts.
Tune in to CBC Radio for a two-part documentary that delves into the science of storytelling
Part I examines nonfiction storytelling:
Part II tackles our uncanny ability to suspend disbelief in fiction:
“Storytelling has come under the gaze of anthropologists, cognitive scientists and evolutionary psychologists,” says Brooks, “and they find the answer in evolution.” See how Brook’s thoughts on storytelling can unleash the full potential of your writing.