Why Use Story?

New York Times Writer Nicholas Kristof said in a recent interview with Krista Tippett,

“We all know that there is this compassion fatigue as the number of victims increases, but what the research has shown that is kind of devastating is that the number at which we begin to show fatigue is two. That led me to look at the work in neurology and social psychology about what makes us care. It’s not about statistics. It’s about using individual stories to create that connection, that empathy. Then, rational arguments, like numbers, can play a supporting role.”

People have been telling stories for millenia, as a way to teach, motivate,understand and connect with others.  While we know on an intuitive level that there is nothing like a good story to stop us in our tracks, only in the last 15 years have we developed the brain imaging technologies that help us shed light on what it means to “get lost” in a good story. Studies are suggesting that, when reading, listening or watching a good story, we activate brain regions used to process the experience as if it were our own. In other words, we are wired for stories.

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  • "It’s not about statistics. It’s about using individual stories to create that connection, that empathy. Then, rational arguments, like numbers, can play a supporting role."
    - Nicholas Kristof

    "When you’re lost in a good story, it’s not arbitrary, it’s not pleasure for pleasure’s sake. It’s biological, it’s chemical, it’s a survival mechanism."
    - Author Lisa Chron

    "Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but, in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry — and that’s what it means to be a social creature."
    - Neuroscientist Paul Zak

    "Listening is an act of love."
    - David Isay, StoryCorps

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