I’ve offered a lot of traditional stories on Lion’s Whiskers over the last several months. How many of you are telling them to your kids? Maybe not a lot of you, and that’s okay! But I hope you have gathered something from these stories. What I hope you have picked up on is this: around the world, in every culture, people have been telling stories not simply for entertainment, but for creating metaphors for understanding their world. I also hope I can persuade you that some form of storytelling – whether with traditional narratives or your own “When I was a kid” yarns – can be a powerful parenting tool, and may help your kids to develop the six types of courage.
- Humans are hardwired for narrative. Evidence is mounting that we are natural storytellers, not by training or by culture, but by biology. The creation of metaphors for understanding our experience is automatic, which helps explain why being presented with facts is often insufficient for decision-making. When we create metaphors for information and experience, they fit more readily into a narrative frame and allow us to imagine how the story might end. Researchers such as Paul Bloom at Yale University’s Mind and Development Lab study babies to figure out how the imagination makes information processing possible, and use puppet plays (stories) to study babies’ moral judgement. “Story,” writes brain scientist Mark Turner, “is a basic principle of mind. Most of our experience, our knowledge, and our thinking is organized as stories.”
- . Oxytocin is released by stories. Oxytocin, the hormone associated with love and attachment, can be triggered by listening to stories. Oxytocin receptors are located in the pleasure centers of the brain; those stimuli that trigger the release of oxytocin (snuggling, for example) are the ones we seek rather than avoid. This tells us that listening to stories is an adaptation for survival. Oxytocin has also been linked to trust, empathy and moral behavior, and may thus be relevant for creating stable societies.