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.
When we read dry, factual arguments, we read with our dukes up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally and this seems to leave us defenseless.
If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that's it, nothing else happens.
When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.
When we think of stories, it is often easy to convince ourselves that they have to be complex and detailed to be interesting. The truth is however, that the simpler a story, the more likely it will stick.
Using simple language as well as low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to the happenings of a story. This is a similar reason why multitasking is so hard for us. Try for example to reduce the number of adjectives or complicated nouns in a presentation or article and exchange them with more simple, yet heartfelt language.
Memes are elements of culture that pass on because of their own inherent value.
When a meme catches on, it can last for years, and not just for you, but for other groups too. Here’s one really old example. In 1939, the British government produced a propaganda poster to encourage British citizens in the wake of Nazi air strikes on London. The poster proudly displayed the British crown with the words, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
Now well known as a meme for t-shirts, beer producers, and various blogs, the meme carries on two and three generations later because it is constantly being reproduced.
Storytelling is similar in that strong storytelling can be retold and reproduced with increasing levels of creativity.
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