We’ve done a lot of research into why storytelling is important and makes a difference, from looking at the history of storytelling to the effect on the brain, we’ve summarised some of our findings below for you to have a ponder on! Enjoy!
Storytelling is important because…
…It is a universal human experience. In caveman times it was around the fire, and in pictures on the walls of caves, then in hieroglyphics, in writing, in plays, the invention of the printing caused an explosion of books and newspapers, then though the radio, the small and big screen and now on the internet though Facebook, YouTube and Netflix.
…Research has show that stories light up parts of the brain that data can’t reach. Data is only processed in the parts of the brain to do with decoding language, whereas a story lights up all the parts of the brain involved in the story – for example if the story involves motion, the parts of the brain to do with motion, will also light up. This means stories are more likely to be remembered in a more meaningful way.
…Listening to stories reassures us of our place in the world and enables engagement with others. It reinforces the commonality of human experience and feeling, and helps people feel less alone. Stories help us navigate the world, and give us new ideas to try and new confidence to overcome our problems with.
…Stories enable empathy. When listening to an engaging story, people want to relate the story to their own experience and what they can learn from it – this is similar to the reason that it is so compelling for people to look at a road accident – on a subconscious level people want to see what happened so they can learn what to do in the future. When telling a story, research has show that a person can enable the listener to mirror the emotions in their brain, by taking them through the story. This is caused by a release of oxytocin in the brain.
…Sharing our stories can relieve stress. It can turn off stress hormones and turn on endorphins, oxytocin and other chemicals in the brain which help deal with anxiety, fear, depression and anger.
…Sharing our stories increases our connection with others. By exposing our imperfections and having those accepted by others it enables us to feel accepted the way we are.
…Sharing our stories increases our resilience. It enables the storyteller to rewrite the story of their life in a way that is meaningful and positive to them. It enables the storyteller to feel the expert, as we are all the expert in our own lives. It enables the storyteller to reorganise events in their mind to more clearly see the path that they have travelled on. It helps the storyteller see that through telling their story they can help other people, which is a huge benefit to those who feel powerless. Telling stories can also help to the storyteller have hope for what is ahead as they can see more clearly their values and their eventual goals.
More information on the impact and importance of storytelling can be found on our Resources page as a pdf download.
McKinsey and Company (1 July 2008), Using Stories to Lead Change: Delivering through Improvement workshop
A Weinroth (22 May 2014), Infographic: the science of storytelling, https://www.onespot.com/blog/infographic-the-science-of-storytelling/
AM Paul (18 March 2012), New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-on-fiction.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1
D Hofner Saphiere (2015) https://blog.culturaldetective.com/2015/03/03/how-storytelling-affects-the-brain/
Paul Zak (2014) https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling/
B Brown (2010) http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability#