When a storyteller interweaves description with emotion, a study suggests his or her brain activity becomes synchronized with the audienceSpeaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication. Stephens GJ., Silbert LJ., Hasson U. Joseph Henry Laboratories of Physics, Princeton University. Proceedings of the national academy of science of the United States of America 2010 Aug 10;107(32):14425-30. This synchronization suggests storytellers are imparting both ideas and emotions onto their listeners. It’s a little like Inception, minus a thought-stealing Leo.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who’s The Greatest Storyteller Of Them All – Analysis

In a recent study, a storyteller and her audience were hooked up to MRI brain scanners. When the region of the brain associated with processing emotion lit up in the storyteller, so did the audience’s. And when the region associated with higher-level thought activated for the storyteller, the audience’s brains showed similar signals. The similarities in brain activity suggest the performer and audience connected on an emotional level to go along with the information exchange. However, this synchronization was unsuccessful when the storyteller performed in Russian, which she understood but the audience did not, suggesting the meaning of the story itself had a significant impact.

Another study demonstrated storytelling can aid in learning by encouraging students to connect with material on a personal level Once upon a time…Storytelling to enhance teaching and learning. Lordly D. Department of Human Nutrition, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS. Canadian journal of dietetic practice and research 2007 Spring;68(1):30-5. Stories caused students to focus on similar, personal experiences, which led to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the information being presented. Of course, on the other hand, there’s some material where personal connections just might not be possible.


Storytelling promotes emotional transfer, greater information retention, and increased connectivity among communicators.