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Author Topic: Why Do People Have To Tell Stories?  (Read 13450 times)
Lykaios
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« Reply #15: February 10, 2009, 12:08:34 am »

If you think about it, we could exist perfectly well without stories; we could still eat, sleep, have sex, even if we never heard or told another story. Sure, stories serve various social functions—one function of myth, for example, is to give social cohesion to a group, I believe—but then a wolf pack reinforces its social cohesion by howling at night, no stories required. So why do humans do it with story? Why do we do so many things—entertainment, education, and on and on—through story?

I can't remember where I read it, but somewhere in an older book on animal intelligence the author made a statement to the effect of: "Humans have the unique ability to learn not only from direct experience, but from observing the experience of others."

Now, the validity of that statement in regards to our 'uniqueness' aside, it is interesting to note that we do, in fact, learn from one another's experiences as much as we learn from direct experience. I've always seen stories as a way of communicating experience and knowledge from one human being to another. As a teacher, I use all kinds of stories to teach all kinds of things. I especially use stories to teach the kids about things they can't directly experience. For example, reading "Number the Stars" in fifth grade, to give them a kid's eye view of the holocaust. It's very watered down with no graphic violence or hint as to the true scope of what happened, but enough to communicate the horror of people being singled out for an arbitrary attribute and taken away from their friends and family never to return, which is still pretty heavy stuff. (Sadly though, most of my kids can identify because every now and then Immigration comes around, camps out in front of grocery stores and public parks, and round up a fourth of our families for deportation.) 

I also know from teaching that stories help make information more memorable. If you want someone to learn something, a story or song will go a lot further than flash cards. I would imagine that in the days before written word, when everything that was to survive beyond the experience of a single generation had to be memorized by new generations, stories were a good way to make that information easier to hold on to and recall. Rhyme is useful to that end as well. Some research shows that Kindergarteners remember rhyming stories better than non-rhyming ones.
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