How We Learn: We Live In Stories

16 Jul
2020

We remember stories. Most of our experience, our knowledge and our thinking is organized as stories. We live in stories. When we hear a story we compare it to what we already have in memory, and note the similarities or differences. This allows us to index and understand new information more quickly and effectively.

Information alone rarely changes attitudes, belief, knowledge, or behavior. Research confirms that well-designed stories are the most effective vehicle for influencing your target audience. Research done by Paul Zak, Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has shown that a compelling story with an emotional trigger causes people to be more understanding, trusting and open to ideas.

Organizational psychologist Peg Neuhauser found that learning based on a well-told story is remembered more accurately, and for far longer, than learning derived from facts and figures. Psychologist Jerome Bruner’s research suggests that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.

Stories engage both sides of the brain making them more memorable. The brain processes images faster than text, and remembers images first. It then remembers the emotional context, and finally, it remembers language. 

According to Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, “most of our experience, our knowledge and our thinking is organized as stories. Our brain has an internal ‘story grammar’ that helps you understand a set of logical propositions, but as a pattern of experiences.

In Narrative in Instructional Design, Jessica Grimaud, Trina Harding, and Richard E. WestIn tell us that “stories make up the fundamental way we make sense of what’s happening around us, and how we remember things. Stories help make information memo­rable, accessible, and meaningful. Stories act as repositories of accumulated wisdom, and as a powerful means of expression.” They quote Donald Norman (1993) as he explains, “stories are marvelous means of summarizing experiences, of capturing an event and the surrounding context that seems essential. Stories are important cognitive events for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion”

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What is A Learning Journey? Since 1995 I’ve collected an incredible amount of information from learning leaders, educators, scientists, etc. on the topic of learning and development. Consolidating these notes collected from conversations, books, conferences, articles and white papers, and sharing my learning journey as A Learning Journey made sense. Thus the series was born. I hope you find the information valuable.

Craig Dadoly
author

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