The Research: Why Stories Connect

Stories have always been powerful connectors, but we’re just beginning to understand how. What was once just intuition is now being proven by neuroscience.

Alison Gopnik recently wrote “Scientists Study Why Stories Exist” in the Wall Street Journal (April 2014), which told about research into how we connect through stories. In a fascinating set of experiments, scientists at Stanford and Princeton have found remarkable similarities in the patterns found in the brains of storytellers and listeners.

It appears that as a story is told, the storyteller gets the listener’s brain pattern to match his or her own. This is much more than similar parts of the brain being stimulated by storytelling. The brain patterns responded in a similar way – and only when the story was told in the correct order. Scrambled sentences eliminated the effect.

Research further indicated that the more closely matched the brain patterns of storytellers and listeners became, the more listeners claimed to understand the story. That means repeated storytelling may well strengthen connections between people even further.

What does this mean for business storytellers? A lot! It could mean that getting someone to think like you may be as simple as telling them a compelling story. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

What do you think?  How have you used the vehicle of story to connect with others?


  1. Vera December 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm ·

    My husband is a great storyteller. When the children were little, he embellished many stories of his childhood growing up in Ukraine. The children loved to hear these stories over and over, but if he changed any of the details, they would correct him! They really liked to have the same stories told repeatedly in the correct order with the “correct” details.

  2. Joy Underhill December 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm ·

    In light of this research, it only makes sense that his versions had to match their memories.

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