UTZ Academy blog

Storytelling and learning

Picture of Federica Marra
Storytelling and learning
by Federica Marra - Wednesday, 9 November 2016, 11:34 AM

Stories and human brains

Humans love stories. From the beginning of human communities we are used to sit together - maybe next to the fire - and tell each other stories, or to paint images on the walls of a cave as a storyboard: stories about divinities, heroes, other men. This process shaped our societies by creating communities of individuals linked to each other by sharing the "same story" (it might be real History, common believes, or the same cultural background).

Why stories are so powerful?

When listening to a story, different activities happen in human brains:

1-  According to Uri Hasson from Princeton, a story activates parts in the brain that allows the listener to turn the story in to their own ideas and experience thanks to a process called neutral coupling.
That is why we tend to repeat stories, jokes or funny facts we heard from others as they were ours.

2- Mirror neurons are neurons that fire both when an individual performs an action and when the individual sees or hearsanother perform a similar action. Before their  discovery, scientists believed that our brains uses logical thought processes to interpret and predict other people's actions. Now, however, many have come to believe that we understand others not by thinking, but by feeling; by showing that, when a person perceives the actions of others, the person activates the motor programs which they would use to perform similar actions.

3- The brain releases dopamine into the system when it experiences an emotionally-charged event, making it easier to remember and with greater accuracy.

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak's research indicates also that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the happy moments in a story releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy.

4- When processing facts, two areas of the brain are activated (Broca's and Wernicke's area). A well-told story can engage many additional areas of the brain, including the motor cortex, sensory cortex, and frontal cortex.

In conclusion:

Data can inform people and bring them to immediate action. Embracing new values and changing the attitude, however, cannot happen by looking at graphs or numbers. Stories can be a powerful tool  to make this change happen, because they touch the hearts and imagination of the listeners.

As a trainer you can also use stories to stimulate your participants' brains!
1. Starting your course with a powerful metaphor, will help you in catalyze all the attention from the beginning.

2.Treating difficult and sensitive topic with a story, will help you get closer to their feelings.

Would you like to know more about storytelling and how to use it in your training courses? Don't miss the next article!

Sources for the article:

(Edited by Simona Giancola - original submission Wednesday, 9 November 2016, 11:37 AM)

(Edited by Simona Giancola - original submission Sunday, 9 July 2017, 9:59 PM)

Picture of Emmanuel Essoah
Re: Storytelling and learning - Part 1
by Emmanuel Essoah - Tuesday, 30 May 2017, 5:20 AM

Stories could serve as ice breakers i.e. by temporarily sparkling/changing a rather charged  atmosphere of learning into an affable atmosphere.

Picture of Federica Marra
Re: Storytelling and learning - Part 1
by Federica Marra - Tuesday, 11 July 2017, 2:11 PM

Indeed, stories can help create a perfect environment for learning.
They bring the brain of the participants to a very receptive status or explain a complex information through a metaphor.

Picture of Maicom Beli Cesar
Re: Storytelling and learning - Part 1
by Maicom Beli Cesar - Monday, 12 June 2017, 7:25 PM

Very Good 

Picture of Alex Neiser Arias Tocto
Re: Storytelling and learning
by Alex Neiser Arias Tocto - Friday, 1 September 2017, 2:03 AM

Very good

Picture of Wimonlack Blom-Boonvises
Re: Storytelling and learning
by Wimonlack Blom-Boonvises - Saturday, 25 November 2017, 12:21 PM

I am so impressed that; Stories can be a powerful tool  to make this change happen, because they touch the hearts and imagination of the listeners.

Picture of gurgel jose Luis
Re: Storytelling and learning
by gurgel jose Luis - Sunday, 4 February 2018, 8:11 PM

I think that Storyteller  and learning go very  well together ,I can still remember 90% of the stories the I have heard as I was a schild now I can give it to my won kids and I hope that they will give it to the next generation .  

Picture of Guillermo Claverias Portocarrero
Re: Storytelling and learning
by Guillermo Claverias Portocarrero - Friday, 9 March 2018, 10:43 PM

Great, thank you Federica