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Thread: Importance of Story-telling / How Your Brain Finds Meaning in Life Experiences

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    Importance of Story-telling / How Your Brain Finds Meaning in Life Experiences

    How do you, your children, and students discover the meaning in everyday life experiences? How do we make sense of words, events, and relationships?

    According to a groundbreaking study, researchers at the University of Southern California identified the regions of the brain where humans acquire meaning by interpreting life stories (Dehghani et al., 2017).

    Psychologists and narrative researchers have long known that stories are at the core of meaning-making and play an important role in how we understand the world around us. For the first time, neuroscientists have mapped regions of the brain while participants of three ethnic backgrounds were exposed to meaningful narratives.

    This research was complex and sophisticated. Researchers sorted through more than twenty million English language blog posts of personal stories and narrowed them to forty topics. Each topic was condensed to a paragraph before being translated into Mandarin Chinese and Farsi. Then the paragraphs were back-translated into English.

    The translating of stories into three languages was done to explore patterns of brain activation across languages. 90 participants were equally divided among Americans, Chinese, and Iranians.

    As participants read the forty different stories, their brains were scanned using an fMRI. The study found something extraordinarily universal about how people process stories, regardless of their alphabet or language. In fact, researchers discovered that the part of the brain called the default mode network (DMN) is involved in high-level meaning and comprehension.

    Prior to this study, the DMN had been identified by researchers as a “resting state,” showing high activity when people were not engaged in externally-focused tasks (Raichle, 2015). It had also been related to “mind-wandering” (Smallwoood & Schooler, 2015) and to self-reflection (Qin & Northoff, 2011).

    Interestingly, psychologists have found that “resting states” like meditation, self-reflection, and mind-wandering are tools that help us make meaning of life. In fact, Harvard researchers discovered that daydreaming accounts for forty-seven percent of our activity during waking hours! Mind-wandering and daydreaming have also been linked to creative thinking.

    It now appears that the brain’s DMN plays a major role in bringing these resting, creative functions together in a deeply profound and meaningful way.

    The same team of USC researchers found that activity in certain DMN nodes increased during the course of a story and was greatest when stories contained strong moral values (Kaplan et al., 2016).

    Why should parents and teachers be interested, and even a bit excited, with this neuroscientific research? Because making meaning of life experiences is how children grow and develop into healthy, adaptable, caring adults. The more we discover how to help children find meaning in life, school, friendships, and activities, the more they will learn to thrive.

    The Power of Storytelling

    A distinguishing characteristic of storytelling is that it requires us to integrate and find meaning to information over time. To grasp the meaning of a story, we must find connections—connections between words, events, and relationships.

    The USC study showed that story transcends language and culture. This knowledge has vast implications for parenting, teaching, nation-building, and peace-making. It demonstrates that stories have the power to impact the development of attributes like integrity, self-awareness, and empathy. It shows that human brains respond to stories in much the same way—connecting at high-levels of meaning.

    This latest research in neuroscience reinforces the importance of sharing stories with children and teens, and using those stories to teach character strengths and ways to discover self-identity through meaning-making.

    Adults help children find meaning and purpose when they discuss movies, books, and stories from their own lives. Through deep questioning, a good movie can help shape a child’s identity. Stories help children and teens see the world in new and different ways, and move them toward positive action. Storytelling is also a conduit for inter-generational learning. Conversations between elders and teens that involve sharing life stories have the potential to generate deep meaning.

    Stories help all of us feel part of a world much bigger than ourselves. When people can relate at high-levels of meaning, they can bridge differences, shed biases, and heal wounded relationships.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog...fe-experiences
    https://psyarxiv.com/qrpp3
    How we extrapolate meaning from stories is universal in humans across cultures, despite differences in language. Furthermore, story-telling, from books, movies, or conversation can shape the lives of children in their formative years. Through this, we form meaning in life. This is why it is important the make sure young people are exposed to quality literature and film; because it will have a substantial impact on their lives.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jovialis View Post
    How we extrapolate meaning from stories is universal in humans across cultures, despite differences in language. Furthermore, story-telling, from books, movies, or conversation can shape the lives of children in their formative years. Through this, we form meaning in life. This is why it is important the make sure young people are exposed to quality literature and film; because it will have a substantial impact on their lives.
    I completely agree with this. The problem is that many of the stories being fed to teens today no longer teach traditional values like selflessness, compassion, honesty, integrity, loyalty, fidelity. Instead, they teach self-indulgence, and mythologize aberrant behavior.

    That's why throughout my children's childhood I purchased and often showed them the "old movies" to which I was exposed when I first came here to America. Just as one example, every Christmas we watched "It's A Wonderful Life" at least once. Indeed, I watched Frank Capra movies with them a lot because I think they're wonderful at imparting real, human values. I played movies like "High Noon", and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "Red River", "The Sound of Music", and "To Kill a Mockingbird". I would put on the re-runs of shows like Bonanza.

    Even relatively more modern movies can teach important life lessons. Most of the Disney movies are great for that; think about movies like Finding Nemo or Iron Man. We own "The Lord of the Rings", and they watched it dozens of times. I also thought " The Karate Kid" was great. I got the Rocky movies for my kids. I didn't care how many times my daughter watched "Titanic", or the "Notebook", or "The Family Man". My son loved "Apollo 13" and "The Right Stuff", and "The Outsiders". When they got older, we watched movies like "Glory" and "Schindler's List".

    I wanted them to have an alternative to things like "Wall Street" in terms of values, fabulous movie though it was.


    Non si fa il proprio dovere perchè qualcuno ci dica grazie, lo si fa per principio, per se stessi, per la propria dignità. Oriana Fallaci

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    I completely agree with this. The problem is that many of the stories being fed to teens today no longer teach traditional values like selflessness, compassion, honesty, integrity, loyalty, fidelity. Instead, they teach self-indulgence, and mythologize aberrant behavior.

    That's why throughout my children's childhood I purchased and often showed them the "old movies" to which I was exposed when I first came here to America. Just as one example, every Christmas we watched "It's A Wonderful Life" at least once. Indeed, I watched Frank Capra movies with them a lot because I think they're wonderful at imparting real, human values. I played movies like "High Noon", and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "Red River", "The Sound of Music", and "To Kill a Mockingbird". I would put on the re-runs of shows like Bonanza.

    Even relatively more modern movies can teach important life lessons. Most of the Disney movies are great for that; think about movies like Finding Nemo or Iron Man. We own "The Lord of the Rings", and they watched it dozens of times. I also thought " The Karate Kid" was great. I got the Rocky movies for my kids. I didn't care how many times my daughter watched "Titanic", or the "Notebook", or "The Family Man". My son loved "Apollo 13" and "The Right Stuff", and "The Outsiders". When they got older, we watched movies like "Glory" and "Schindler's List".

    I wanted them to have an alternative to things like "Wall Street" in terms of values, fabulous movie though it was.
    Great selection!

    As I got older, I started to notice how destructive certain shows on TV were. A lot of the kids I went to school with always seemed to have different interests and values than I. I used to love watching history documentaries, and nature programs. However, I did watch a lot of action, crime, and horror movies. I think they may have had an influence on me growing up as well. But I think my interest in higher-order subjects, helped to keep me balanced. I loved watching movies like Ben-Hur, Braveheart, and Spartcus too. I also saw a lot of Disney classics growing up as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jovialis View Post
    Great selection!

    As I got older, I started to notice how destructive certain shows on TV were. A lot of the kids I went to school with always seemed to have different interests and values than I. I used to love watching history documentaries, and nature programs. However, I did watch a lot of action, crime, and horror movies. I think they may have had an influence on me growing up as well. But I think my interest in higher-order subjects, helped to keep me balanced. I loved watching movies like Ben-Hur, Braveheart, and Spartcus too. I also saw a lot of Disney classics growing up as well.
    Also good ones. I adored the original "Ben-Hur". The re-make was terrible. I'd add "The Gladiator" too. We wound up buying that one as well, and it has been played over and over again.

    My daughter and I are really into musicals. "The Phantom of the Opera" used to be her favorite, but know it's "Les Miserables".



    "I dreamed a dream":
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86lczf7Bou8

    "The Count of Monte Cristo" version with Jim Caviezel is excellent too...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rbDCOAutuU

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    I love Gladiator as well. I haven't seen the new Ben-Hur, but remakes are usually not very good for some reason. The only remake I can think of that was amazing was The Thing (1982). New remakes usually have some off-putting cinematography that just can't capture the feel of the original I think. Another important facet of a movie is the soundtrack imo. Something that has been lost in new movies.

    Ben-Hur (1959) had a genius soundtrack composed by Miklos Rozsa.

    This one in particular is my favorite:



    Basil Poleduris was another amazing composer, especially his soundtrack for Conan the Barbarian:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEp76ppPc8o

    Part of the reason why the Thing (1982) was a great film was Ennio Morricone amazing soundtrack.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meU2gAU7Xss

    I also love the work he did for spaghetti westerns, like this classic:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOr0na6mKJQ

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    Other great epic movies I was fond of growing up. I think movies like this helped to shape my appreciation for the ancient world:

    Clash of the Titans:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X7W-oPhY48

    Jason and the Argonauts:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF_Fi7x93PY

    The 10 Commandments:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id6oS3L-D9A

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    Loved the owl from clash of the titans!

    I saw the disney version of Hercules as a kid; great movie, but i later found out it was almost completely inaccurate.

    The remake of clash of the titans was terrible in many ways (except for being terrible-it succeeded at that)
    mmmmmmmmm dooouuughhhnuuuutz

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