Your Brain on Stories: How Stories Impact Your World View

Impacts of Hearing  and Writing Other People's Stories

He was sitting in the school library with his friends on a rainy day, laughing and getting the negative attention of the staff. Picking up a random novel from the shelf to hide behind and pretend to read, a sentence actually caught his attention, and he was transported to the world of Dune.

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It was the third in the series, and when he finished it, he went back to read the first two. That fateful rainy day changed how David Amerland saw his world, and his future in it. The premise behind Dune, written in 1965 is incredibly relevant today. Like so many of our most cherished science fiction novels, we’re seeing ominous signals of our future, strangely mirroring our wildest science fiction fantasies of the past.

In Dune, the people of the future are like computers, our minds are what drive development, not the opposite, as we see today. And that’s what David saw in his future; recognizing the incredible power of the human brain, and how it’s impacted by what we observe, consciously and unconsciously.

Our thoughts and behaviors are shaped by our perceptions of all of our interactions, experiences, and observations of our stories, and we’re also shaped by other people’s stories that we hear and read. Many iterations of “rags to riches” stories capture our attention, not because they are our stories, but because we are motivated and enthralled by the stories we want to relate to. When we hear or read about the struggles, obstacles, and successes of others, we can see ourselves in those stories, even if our experiences are completely different. It’s the emotion – the feelings – behind the stories that capture our attention, not necessarily the actual experiences.

Recent studies have shown that hearing someone tell a story triggers specific activity in our brains. When we hear a story being told, the active part of our brain is the same active part of the brain as the person who is telling the story. In other words, if I share a story really well, I can get others to practically experience it.

There’s more to it, of course, involving release of oxytocin in the brain. You can read more here, and here.

Listen to this fascinating conversation with David Amerland, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

David Amerland is an international speaker, author and business journalist. He's also a gypsy careerist (like me), because his interests span the spectrum of science and humanity. His recently published book, The Sniper Mind, takes mindfulness and focus techniques that are critical to success in that arena, and applies those techniques to professional and personal success. I'm a little conflicted with this idea, and at the same time, totally intrigued by it.

Enjoyed the podcast? Read about David on his website, connect with him on LinkedIn, and buy his book.