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How a story can impact the brain

Do you have a favourite childhood story?

Most people would agree that if told a story, they are more likely to remember it as opposed to facts and figures. Stories provide an emotional connection between the audience and the speaker.

Storytelling has been part of the lives of human beings for centuries. Before the invention of writing utensils and technology, storytelling was how information and history was passed from one generation to the next.

Have you ever wondered why you remember stories so easily? Well, stories affect the brain in a number of ways.

Brain Activity

Here are four ways that a good story will affect your brain activity.

1. Neural Coupling

A story activates parts of the brain that allows the listener to turn the story into their own ideas and experience.

2. Mirroring

Listeners will experience similar brain activity to each other as well as to that of the speaker.

3. Dopamine

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

4. Cortex Activity

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, including the motor cortex, sensory cortex and frontal cortex.

Storytelling in the business world

Think about the most memorable presentations that you have seen. Was a story included? Business stories do not tend to start with "Once upon a time…". However a good business story can capture your imagination.

When presenting to clients, being able to give your facts in the form of a story will have a greater impact on their receptiveness to you. Depending upon the story, it can evoke emotions such as regret for past injustices or excitement for the possibilities.

If you want people to take action – whether it is to change a behaviour or to buy from you – a story will activate the parts of the brain that will help to make this happen.

The stories of your clients and their success from working with you are powerful in helping your prospective client to make a decision in your favour. The connection that they experience enables them to relate to those people who have achieved what they want in their business.

As children, we embraced a good story for its entertainment value. As adults, we should continue to do so, together with the realisation of the impact of a story on the decision-making process. A good story can help us to connect with our audience and the valuable information that we want to share may actually be remembered, together with a greater chance of action being taken.

How do you use stories in your business presentations?


Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. Her programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.
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  1. James Birtwistle

    Broca's and Wernicke's areas eh?

    Never heard of them, but everyone loves a good story for all the reasons you state, but I hadn't considered Dopamine 🙂



    • Maria Pantalone

      Thanks for your comments, Jim. Hopefully you're thinking about stories and their impact in a new way. 🙂


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