The neuroscience of why stories persuade and teach clients more enduringly than facts and numbers

In-house lawyers should tell their clients more stories if they want to reach them effectively. Stories are the way humans learn best, according to an article in the J. of the Legal Writing Inst., Vol. 15, 2009 at 270. It claims that cognitive neuroscience shows that our brains are structured to grasp stories (narratives) more efficiently than facts. MRI studies show that stories stimulate different regions of the brain than those stimulated when the brain is processing information in sentences.

If you want to educate a client or change their behavior, tell them a story. Not only do stories trigger emotional responses that give stickiness to the message, they also “trigger release of neuro-transmitters (catecholamines, such as epinephrine and dopamine) that affect both hemispheres of the brain – and this leads to holistic learning.”

“When people tell stories or listen to them, they form mental images that are stored in memory as symbols. Studies show that while people retain “only 20% of what they read, … they recall 80% of symbols.” Don’t just lay out the issues, give your client a context and a narrative so that the message gets through in an understandable and memorable way (See my post of June 22, 2008: neuroscience with 32 references.). A story, especially one with symbolic lessons, is worth a thousand words.

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