Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live - Issue 75: Story - Nautilus - Deepstash

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Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live - Issue 75: Story - Nautilus

http://nautil.us/issue/75/story/our-brains-tell-stories-so-we-can-live

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Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live - Issue 75: Story - Nautilus
We are all storytellers; we make sense out of the world by telling stories. And science is a great source of stories. Not so, you might argue. Science is an objective collection and interpretation of data. I completely agree.

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Storytelling is essential to living

Stories are the primary way through which we make sense of our world. We explain ideas by telling stories.

Even science uses storytelling when they use data of the physical world to explain phenomena that cannot be reduced to physical facts, or when they extend incomplete data to draw general conclusions.

For example, knowing the atomic weight of carbon and oxygen cannot explain to us what life is. 

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Where science and story meet

Where science and story meet

Despite the verities of science, we feel compelled to tell stories that venture beyond the facts.

When we first see separate ideas, we feel obliged to find a relationship between the ideas to form a coherent picture. Once a possible relationship has been established, we feel the need to come up with an explanation.

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The brain’s reward system

The brain’s reward system

When the brain pieces separate bits of an image together to form a coherent picture, it is known as pattern recognition. Once we recognize a pattern, it can spark a degree of pleasure, often described as that "a-ha" moment.

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Hypotheses and making up stories

Science is about making up stories called hypotheses and testing them, then coming up with better stories. Once a story is complete, science goes to a lab to test it. While a story is useful, it can also be a problem if we run with an incomplete story. Our brains' reward for possible pattern-matching can overlook conflicting information as it searches for patterns, not identical inputs.

We earn a dopamine reward every time we understand something - even if the explanation is defective. This may result in misinterpreting data.

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Good science

Good science = precise data - possible interpretations.

Good science is a humble recognition of the limits of what scientific data can say.

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What science to accept

  • Ensure that any science you trust has passed through the peer-review process. And even then it might not be accurate. 
  • Search for information on the limits of the data in science reports. Were assumptions made? Be concerned if the discussion of them is missing.
  • Assess the preciseness of language, tightness of structure and restraint with which they present moral issues.
  • Assess the historical, cultural, and personal context of the study.
  • Are they willing to entertain alternative opinions and interpretations?

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The olfactory sense at work

The olfactory sense at work

Our sense of smell works in wondrous ways since the chemical composition of our surrounding change instantly and constantly. Our noses pick up volatile airborne compounds that interact with...

Facts about our olfactory sense

  • It is different from other sensory cortices in a way that it has a multidimensional stimulus.
  • Some things can smell different not just between different people but also for the same person.
  • Can measure an array of an uncertain variety of chemicals that can trace changes that detects pleasure, pain, or danger.
  • It does not require a map mirroring because its chemical stimulus is constantly changing. It relies on the brain to recognize the pattern or memory associated with the smell.

Contributors to the study of the olfactory sense

  • Santiago Ramón y Cajal: A founding father of neuroscience, he drew attention to the sense of smell as an exemplary model to learn how the brain makes sense of the world. He also believed that understanding smell would grant us better insight into other sensory systems
  • Linda Buck & Richard Axel: They discovered the olfactory receptors which happened to be the most structurally diverse and sizable member of the largest multi-gene family of protein receptors. They received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Hardwired for Stories

We love to tell and listen to stories. The 'Story Narrative' is hardwired in us, as we think and remember in stories.

A strong narrative can be the difference between succes...

Creative Problem Solving

Human beings are able to creatively solve problems, alone or in a group. This has given rise to many inventions, shaping common goals shared by a group of people.

We needed a 'sticky' idea to spread it among people, and the story narrative is exactly that.

Relating To The Characters

Stories cater to our Ego. A listener puts himself in the shoes of the protagonist of a story, and an idea is given emotional heft and sturdiness.

The more we are able to relate to the central character, the more engaging, effective and memorable a story narrative becomes.

one more idea

The Science Of Storytelling

According to Will Storr, author of ‘The Science Of Storytelling’, reality is just a phrase for a common set of shared facts and surroundings and is mainly a mind construct. We may not be living in ...

Change Matters

Human beings react to physical and environmental changes all the time. Likewise, a good story requires changes and challenges, and characters need to be provided with certain crossroads of change, else the story does not move.

Cause And Effect

Incomplete stories are filled automatically by the brain, as we have an urge to find meaning in everything. We also tend to believe the simplest explanations. Stories need to be shown a linear cause and effect for the reader to stay interested. If there are too many effects, the effect is lost.