Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why stories are important to us

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Interesting article by Jeremy Hsu in the Scientific American. It begins:

Key Concepts

  • Storytelling is a human universal, and common themes appear in tales throughout history and all over the the world.
  • These characteristics of stories, and our natural affinity toward them, reveal clues about our evolutionary history and the roots of emotion and empathy in the mind.
  • By studying narrative’s power to influence beliefs, researchers are discovering how we analyze information and accept new ideas.

When Brad Pitt tells Eric Bana in the 2004 film Troy that “there are no pacts between lions and men,” he is not reciting a clever line from the pen of a Hollywood screenwriter. He is speaking Achilles’ words in English as Homer wrote them in Greek more than 2,000 years ago in the Iliad. The tale of the Trojan War has captivated generations of audiences while evolving from its origins as an oral epic to written versions and, finally, to several film adaptations. The power of this story to transcend time, language and culture is clear even today, evidenced by Troy’s robust success around the world.

Popular tales do far more than entertain, however. Psychologists and neuroscientists have recently become fascinated by the human predilection for storytelling. Why does our brain seem to be wired to enjoy stories? And how do the emotional and cognitive effects of a narrative influence our beliefs and real-world decisions?

The answers to these questions seem to be rooted in our history as a social animal. We tell stories about other people and for other people. Stories help us to keep tabs on what is happening in our communities. The safe, imaginary world of a story may be a kind of training ground, where we can practice interacting with others and learn the customs and rules of society. And stories have a unique power to persuade and motivate, because they appeal to our emotions and capacity for empathy.

A Good Yarn
Storytelling is one of the few human traits that are truly universal across culture and through all of known history. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2008 at 12:50 pm

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