The Secrets of Storytelling

In support for the idea that stories act as practice

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Unformatted text preview: rovocative, the authors caution that the study did not probe cause and effect— exposure to stories may hone social skills as the researchers suspect, but perhaps socially inclined individuals simply seek out more narrative fiction. In support for the idea that stories act as practice for real life are imaging studies that reveal similar brain activity during viewings of real people and animated characters. In 2007 Mar conducted a study using Waking Life, a 2001 fi lm in which live footage of actors was traced so that the characters appear to be animated drawings. Mar used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan volunteers’ brains as they watched matching footage of the real actors and the corresponding animated characters. During the real footage, brain activity spiked strongly in the superior temporal sulcus and the temporoparietal junction, areas associated with processing biological motion. The same areas lit up to a lesser extent for the animated footage. “This difference in brain activation could be how (The Author) JEREMY HSU is a science journalist based in New York City. He is currently a staff writer at Imaginova’s LiveScience.com and SPACE.com. w w w. S c i A m M in d .c o m SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND 49 Tales in the Brain maging studies have found much story-related activity in the brain’s right hemisphere. Patterns for story processing differ from patterns for other related mental tasks, such as paying attention or stringing together sentences for language comprehension. Raymond A. Mar, now at York University in Toronto, reviewed such imaging research in a 2004 paper. Areas that appear crucial to creating or understanding narrative include the medial ( pink) and lateral ( green) prefrontal cortex, home to working memory, which help to sequence information and represent story events. The cingulate cortex I (orange ) may be involved in adding visuospatial imagery and connecting personal experience with the story to add understanding. Brain regions such as the medial prefrontal cortex, temporoparietal junction (red) and temporal poles (purple) may also work together to aid in the identification of characters’ mental states. The a...
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