The Science Behind How Stories Affect Your Brain Listening to a story that’s being told or read to you activates the auditory cortex of your brain. Engaging with a story also fires up your left temporal cortex , the region that is receptive to language.
Storytelling is the core around which Cultural Detective is based. While the Cultural Detective Method is grounded in extensive intercultural theory, using Cultural Detective for development, learning, conflict resolution or team building involves listening to, telling, reading, or otherwise interacting with stories, or, in detective parlance, incidents. The debut of Cultural Detective The Netherlands involved a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception in Amsterdam, during which professionals acted out critical incidents for those attending. Trainers have turned their training rooms into theaters, acting out the stories in the Cultural Detective series with the learners. Why so much emphasis on stories?Why?
Let’s start by watching my interview with Kelli McLoud-Schingen, one of our CD team members, who is a professional storyteller and actress, as well as a dynamite diversity practitioner and interculturalist.https://video.wordpress.com/embed/BZt5oxCQ?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&loop=0&preloadContent=auto&muted=0&playsinline=0&controls=1
Storytelling does, indeed, link the head, heart and mind—an integration that is key to the development of intercultural competence. Interestingly for those working across cultures, however, science is now finding that stories help us to better understand others’ intentions and relate to one another better! My experience has shown that stories can help us to develop empathy, particularly with those very different from ourselves.
“There was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others.
Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions ‘theory of mind.’
Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.”
—Dr. Raymond Mar, York University, Toronto
Furthermore, stories allow us to “practice,” even if in our own minds, how we might respond under various circumstances. Stories can “take us” to India, China or Brazil, and help us imagine ourselves in an interaction there, so that when we actually visit, it’s not as strange or confusing. Stories are a form of mental, rather than computerized, simulation.
“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that ‘runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.’”
—Annie Murphy Paul, The New York Times, “Your Brain on Fiction”
Finally, analyzing stories enables the learner to look at real people in real situations, in all their complexity—personality, age, gender, ethnicity, religious tradition, nationality—rather than as one-dimensional generalizations or stereotypes.
If you have not yet subscribed to Cultural Detective Online, or attended one of our complimentary webinars, you are missing out on an incredibly robust and affordable tool that includes hundreds of stories to support your learning! We hope to see you there soon!
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January 28, 2014
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In “Research studies and theory”This entry was posted in Commentary and tagged brain science, cross-cultural skills, Cultural Detective, global diversity, intercultural competence, multicultural society, neural coupling, stereotypes, storytelling, theory of mind by Dianne Hofner Saphiere. Bookmark the permalink.
About Dianne Hofner Saphiere
There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we’ve raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What’s your story?View all posts by Dianne Hofner Saphiere →
9 THOUGHTS ON “HOW STORYTELLING AFFECTS THE BRAIN”
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- donna stringer on said: 1 0 Rate ThisThanks Dianne & Kelli–I got this just in time! Meeting this morning with a client about conducting a storytelling session next month DonnaLikeReply ↓
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- Dianne Hofner Saphiere on said: 0 0 Rate ThisAnother great article on the power of story: https://blog.slideshare.net/2015/03/04/the-secret-to-activating-your-audiences-brain/LikeReply ↓
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