Storytelling as the Ultimate Weapon

Storytelling as the Ultimate Weapon

We all know the power of storytelling but, like any powerful thing, storytelling can be part of a manipulation.  The reason stories work is that they are constructed to align with familiar thought patterns or schema that are pleasing to our brains.  A skillful storyteller knows what his or her audience will like and will align with them to please them.  What pleases our brains?  Speed, efficiency and consistency.

How are these things achieved?  When a communication aligns with our thought schema or worldview in a way that is so pleasing that we don’t have to think too much about them, our brains are happy.

I often use the term “Happy Brain.”   A Happy Brain can spend more time in the hyper-efficient conscious unconscious where it doesn’t have expend too much energy; as opposed to  the conscious mind that burns a lot more energy churning through all that critical thought.

Please don’t misconstrue this as “some people like to have lazy brains.”  We all seek shortcuts and order in our thinking and want to align the outside world with our view of it.  Stories help us do this in nice, neat, brain-efficient patterns.   If you know that a story is trying to achieve please you, you can look at it a bit more critically.  Here’s a bit more research clipped from an article in Fast Company:

Until recently we’ve only been able to speculate about story’s persuasive effects. But over the last several decades psychology has begun a serious study of how story affects the human mind. Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.

What is going on here? Why are we putty in a storyteller’s hands? The psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock argue that entering fictional worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” Green and Brock’s studies shows that the more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them. Highly absorbed readers also detected significantly fewer “false notes” in stories–inaccuracies, missteps–than less transported readers. Importantly, it is not just that highly absorbed readers detected the false notes and didn’t care about them (as when we watch a pleasurably idiotic action film). They were unable to detect the false notes in the first place.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *