Why Stories are Important

What’s one sure-fire way to engage someone and create new memory? By telling a story.

In a study conducted by the Emory Institute in Atlanta, researchers asked 21 students to participate in a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan (fMRIs) to examine if there would be increased connectivity in the area of the brain associated with language (the left temporal cortex), and if there would be lingering neural effects, from reading a story. During the first five days, scans were taken of the initial brain structure. Then over the next nine days, the students were asked to read the novel Pompeii.

Pompeii is a 2003 thriller by Robert Harris based on the real-life eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy. The lead author of the study, Gregory Berns, says, “the story follows a protagonist, who is outside the city of Pompeii and notices steam and strange things happening around the volcano. He tries to get back to Pompeii in time to save the woman he loves. Meanwhile, the volcano continues to bubble and nobody in the city recognizes the signs.”

The book was chosen because of its page-turning plot. “It depicts true events in a fictional and dramatic way,” Berns says. “It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative line.”

When scans were taken over the remaining five days, they revealed increased brain activity. The research also suggested that thinking about an action triggers the very same areas that are active while actually performing the action.

Why is this important to new home salespeople?

Stories create physical changes to the brain. In the case of the Emory Institute study, Berns said, “the neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist.”

Reality: a mass of cold hard data doesn’t engage the brain. Story does. Story is like glue that holds together your message. While numbers and facts can activate the brain, engagement occurs through powerful words and stories. And engagement helps the brain store information.

That’s why telling stories—or creating the stories that will unfold inside a new home—are so important to selling success.