Why Is Storytelling Important?

Storytelling is important for four reasons.

First, storytelling is important because it helps us deal with a chaotic world. Stories organize our worlds by choosing to emphasize certain things and choosing to deemphasize other things. Because stories can help us filter facts about the world, stories play an important part of how humans create meaning and purpose. The things we emphasize in the story are what we feel are important. Just like frames, stories control to a large extend the conclusions we come to. For example, the news could tell a story about a robbery that happened in a local store. They could look at it in two ways. As a viscous crime against property owners, or a story of starvation and desperation in the community. What elements the news chooses to emphasize, and what parts the news downplays control how the event is interpreted.

Our brains seem to do this naturally. Narrative psychology is a whole area of study where psychologists seek to increase our understanding about how the stories we tell ourselves effect various outcomes and ways we look at life. We can achieve wonder and humility, stability and power, or chaos variety through our internal narratives.

Second, stories help the brain situate and remember facts. In the 60s, scientists had students remember a set of words. The group that used a story to remember the words, were able to recall six times more words than the other group. This is why professional memorizers use memory journeys as a technique to store information. In other words, embedding your message in a story might make it significantly more memorable. Making something stick in a person’s brain is important for deeper levels of persuasion.

Third, stories help us problem solve. When humans hear good stories we frequently project ourselves into the role of the main character. This makes the story more interesting to us, but it also allows us to run a sort of low cost experiment. We can imagine ourselves being confronted with a problem in a story, and we can hear how the story plays out. Thus, stories allow us the benefit of living multiple lives without the costs of time, effort, or failure.

Fourth, stories help us persuade, inspire, and communicate. Because humans are drawn to stories, wrapping our communication in stories can help us get people to listen to us so we can persuade, inspire, and communicate important information.

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