In belief, memory, sparks, stories

People are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a set of unconnected facts.
Jerome Bruner

There is a reason that the Bible is filled with stories. We process stories effortlessly and can often recall them verbatim. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar has estimated that two-thirds of adult conversations revolve round personal topics i.e. gossip or stories. Somehow, when we step up to do a presentation, we tend to forget this and start to favour statistics and cold, hard logic as our means of communicating. There’s a place for statistics and logic, but it’s a small one. Even in an area as rational as the law courts, research has shown that lawyers who can explain events in the form of a story are more convincing.

One reason is that people listen to stories in a different way to arguments. Research has shown that listeners actually make a mental simulation of the story – they create a 3D visual model of the places and events. The story is therefore far more meaningful to them. Rather than analysing what you are saying for truth or for possible counter-arguments, the listener is working with your story. When you make an argument, they tend to fight back with counter-arguments. When you tell a story, they don’t fight – they follow.

This is one reason why all the positive consumer reports and test statistics for a car are unlikely to convince you, if a friend of yours has been telling you of their nightmare experiences with the same model.

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