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How Stories Change the Brain

How Stories Change the Brain
Ben’s dying. That’s what Ben’s father says to the camera as we see Ben play in the background. Ben is two years old and doesn’t know that a brain tumor will take his life in a matter of months. Ben’s father tells us how difficult it is to be joyful around Ben because the father knows what is coming. But in the end he resolves to find the strength to be genuinely happy for Ben’s sake, right up to Ben’s last breath. Everyone can relate to this story. A recent analysis identifies this “hero’s journey” story as the foundation for more than half of the movies that come out of Hollywood, and countless books of fiction and nonfiction. Why are we so attracted to stories? Why the brain loves stories The first part of the answer is that as social creatures who regularly affiliate with strangers, stories are an effective way to transmit important information and values from one individual or community to the next. Think of this as the “car accident effect.” What makes a story effective?

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_stories_change_brain

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10,000 Years of Oral Narrative Just off the coast of Australia, a few miles west of Perth, lie three small limestone islands. Today they’re a popular destination for boat trips and air taxis, but a local Aboriginal tribe tells stories of a time when these three isles were connected to the mainland by lush forest. One day, the stories recount, those trees caught fire. They burned “with such intensity that the ground split asunder with a great noise, and the sea rushed in between, cutting off these islands from the mainland.”

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