Wired for Story
Temple lamps lit with a one-day supply of oil still burn eight days later. Wise men bearing gifts have begun their long journey to Bethlehem. Ancient tales, passed down through generations, transmit truths that run deeper than fact.
Humans are story-telling creatures. All the logic and statistics you can offer won’t move hearts or minds as much as the well-told tale of a character’s struggle. Personal, emotionally gripping stories engage more of the brain than raw data. One study found subjects were much more likely to solve a logic puzzle when it was embedded in a problem-solving narrative.
Another research team found blood levels of oxytocin rose after a compelling story. Oxytocin promotes empathy and trust, makes us more sensitive to social cues, and increases altruistic behavior. It’s no coincidence this season of stories and movies is also a season of giving.
12/30/2019 09:20:40 am
Ken Burns says that no one wants the facts (of history). But if you bury the facts in a good story, they'll soak it right up.
12/30/2019 09:26:44 am
Ken Burns is the expert on how to tell history as a good story! Thanks for this quote, Lisa - I hadn't heard it before and it's so true. Whether as facts or "alternative facts," the material conveyed in a good story is what people absorb and retain.
12/30/2019 01:50:24 pm
this is why I like reading the Bible. love your posts!
12/30/2019 05:32:24 pm
So rich in biblical stories, many of them brief in the original so we can find different meanings in them to fit the needs of the moment. (Of course there are awful ones too, like where the Israelites persuade their enemies to convert to Judaism and then slaughter them while the men are recovering from circumcision, but even biblical literalists pick and choose.) Once while I was freelancing, I was offered a staff position with temptations like temporary steady income and benefits. For other reasons it would have been a mistake to accept it, as I knew when the image of a snake leaning out from an apple tree flashed in my head.
12/30/2019 07:38:58 pm
yes, I like how they can be "re-purposed" for different situations. I could have used that serpent analogy more often in my past, lol.
12/31/2019 07:42:53 am
Barb, I often hear folks talk about what they do or don't believe or practice of the religion they were raised in, but less often about how it shapes the language they think in. In another instance, when Geoff and I were nervous en route to visit a friend in prison, one of us said to the other, "Didn't Jesus say something about visiting the prisoner?" That helped settle our nerves.
2/9/2020 06:13:17 pm
Who would say that Oxytocin promotes empathy and trust? Of course, only experts can say that it is possible, but I am glad that such topic are now being opened to them! I am pretty sure that everything that happens inside our body has something to do with our emotion that's why we always need to take care of that. As much as possible, then it would be better to have a control on your emotion because that's going to be a great thing. That's one thing I am sure of!
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.