So what are the things we learn from stories? Why do we hang on to every word that the character utters? Has the character changed our behavior? Suppose we replace the character with a lecturer, would you get the same automatic connection? Probably not.
Are Our Brains Hardwired for Storytelling?
An award winning storyteller who has performed for 6.5 million audiences and a prolific author who has written 34 books, Kendal Haven answers with a resounding yes! As a nationally recognized expert on story structure, Haven believes that our brains are hardwired for storytelling and that we're not just Home sapiens, we are Homo narratives. According to Haven, we prefer to remember stories better than non-story information.
Kendal Haven on YOUR BRAIN ON STORIES: WHY YOU ARE HARDWIRED TO THINK AND LEARN THROUGH STORYTELLING
- People are willing to pay to be engaged. You want to buy their attention. They want to pay with their attention to be engaged. Attention is the currency in the exchange of ideas and stories to ensure that they are engaged.
- Human beings have been telling stories for 100,000-300,000 years. The human species has relied on stories as a structure and has been used to convey and archive learning, history and wisdom. We are hardwired for stories and that's why it resonates with us.
- According to EEG recordings, from sensory organs (seeing, hearing, smelling, touch and taste), information goes through the neural story net and are converted to story form before it gets to the conscious mind.
- The story net automatically distorts and makes up its own version of the story to make sense of it. We need effective story structures to ensure the accuracy of the information being conveyed through the story.
What Happens in the Brain During Storytelling Session?
The brain is not in neutral when we hear stories, its gears are engaged. It's ready to make its own judgments and is synchronized with the storyteller. "When 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' brains.", says Princeton researcher Uri Hasson.
We know that the experiences presented in the stories can be experienced by them too. This automatic connection or synchronization between teacher and learner is seldom achieved through traditional teaching methods.
What We Learn from Stories: Values, Morals and How to Live Our Lives
Stories have characters placed in a specific situation. We easily identify with them and how they cope with the situation that they are in. What is the moral dilemma that they are facing? Did their values in life help in achieving moral clarity? In short, how the characters live their lives become an example for us.
So it's not accidental when we use characters in a story, it's intentional. There is a foundational theory that characters represent the teaching moments. And it is in our use of these characters that we can impart knowledge. Since stories are that influential, isn't this the best way for educators to embed technical compliance and other learning content?
- What is the goal of the main character? Did he manage to accomplish his goals? Every story is resolved when the character fails or accomplishes his goal.
- Conflicts. What is keeping the character from getting what he wants?
- Risk and danger keep the excitement in the story. What can possibly go wrong?
- What is the struggle the main character is facing? What is the main character up against? This keeps us glued to the story.
- Details make the audience add pictures to the stories. Designers can effectively use details to insert learning content in the stories.
- Motive explains why the goal is important and makes us identify with the characters. We become the character so to speak and we pay attention.
Emma Pearse: 17 Life Lessons From 'Stories We Tell: JUNE 24, 2013
Michale Gabriel: Learning and Growing Through Stories: April 1999
Ray Jimenez, PhD
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"