Posts Tagged ‘neurological study’

Brain Study Confirms Stories Are Powerful

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A recent neurological study confirms what writers have long known from experience: The human brain makes little distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life. So, for example, when a person reads sensory descriptions, such as the smell of lavender or cinnamon, the words generate a reaction in the sensory cortex, generating a nearly identical reaction as the experience described. In other words, stories are powerful!

In an article in The New York Times, Author Annie Murphy Paul says that “The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.”

Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Dr. Oatley says that fiction “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky…. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

Storytelling practitioners would make a case (from their own experiences of audience reactions) that hearing well-told stories produces a similar reaction. How about you? What’s your experience with storytelling? Does your organization generate good experiences with descriptive stories?