We often talk about how stories “shape” us. They influence what we think about and how we feel, what entertains us and how we view the world. Stories have power.
But in the video below we see that the “shaping” power of stories goes beyond just our thoughts and emotions. Stories, especially dramatic stories, can change the very chemistry of our brains.
The video explains the results of a recent study into how dramatic storytelling can lead to very specific brain changes in brain chemistry (increased levels of cortisol and oxytocin), which in turn correlate with a specific behavior (giving money). And the conclusion of the study is that our brains are hard-wired to respond to dramatic stories–in other words, those with a particular narrative arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement.
Although the video really doesn’t explain why some other dramatic structure wouldn’t have a similar affect, the basic gist of the video is interesting: humans are wired for dramatic stories. Stories shape our thoughts, emotions, character and our very bodies. We are literally story-shaped people.
That would seem to have at least two clear implications. First, we need to make stories a central part of teaching and discipleship. We shouldn’t overreact and think that everything needs to be done through story. Other kinds of teaching and discipleship also shape us in important ways. But let’s remember how vital stories are for shaping who we become.
Which leads to the second implication. If stories shape who we become, let’s be careful with the stories we allow to shape us. We are surrounded by stories, each of them seeking to make us after their own image. That’s not something we can or should try to escape. But let’s be aware of it and make sure that we’re intentionally soaking in and being shaped by the story of the gospel.