Stories are powerful. They entertain, they educate, and they connect us to each other through our shared experiences, desires, and instincts. While technology rapidly changes our world and our lives, it fails to have as drastic an impact on our minds. The human brain continues to evolve, but the foundations of thought and emotion remain very much the same.
When information is presented in the form of a narrative or a “story”, it is received by the brain in a far different way than when delivered in a traditional method. “Traditional” educational methods (i.e. lectures, slideshows, textbooks) have been shown to activate what scientists call the Broca's area
and Wernicke's area
, the parts of the brain where words are decoded into meaning. Unfortunately, after that processing is complete, the activity ceases.
With storytelling, however, those same language-processing areas are similarly engaged, but it is also processed through cognitive empathy, which allows us to relate to the information personally. The result of that extra processing is increased absorption, familiarity, and memory. Additional physiological reactions to storytelling also contribute to learning. When an audience or learner is thoroughly invested in a story, the brain releases chemicals, such as cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin, which help with awareness, arousal, and ultimately action.