Darrell J. Pursiful

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Humans are Story Junkies

Human brains are wired for stories:

Your brain on story is different than your brain when it is receiving any other form of information, including straight facts and data. There are proven intersections between neuroscience, biology, and story we cannot ignore. The threads of stories that we read, hear, watch, and click on affect us intrinsically. And tempt us as well.

Neuroscientists at Emory University published research in December 2013 showing the changes in neural patterns of volunteers after reading a narrative story based on real events. The researchers assigned subjects to read Robert Harris’ 2003 novel Pompeii, a piece of historical fiction based on real events. It is a genre cousin to narrative non-fiction and narrative journalism that employs the storytelling techniques of fiction to tell true stories.

The results showed heightened connectivity in a specific part of the brain. The left temporal cortex lit up, and not just for the period immediately following the reading assignments. The neural changes persisted for several days. This is why we sometimes say that a story was so powerful we just can’t seem to shake it.



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