TRBQ: What's Your Story?

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Research shows that we create stories about our lives and believe them even when they’re not accurate. We depend on stories as the key to understanding and remembering our lives. Stories can make us buy products, remember school lessons, vote for candidates, and go to war. Why do stories have such sway over our beliefs and our behaviors? Why did we evolve to be storytelling animals?

On this episode of The Really Big Questions, host Dean Olsher talks with various guests about the fundamental place storytelling has in our lives. They reflect the human impulse to find causes and explanations for events in life. But they can also mesmerize us -- research shows that we approach stories less critically than other types of information. Our behavior and beliefs are influenced by stories -- even those we know are false.

Olsher speaks with scientists and expert storytellers about the costs and benefits of our love affair with stories, and what our interest in stories tells us about the human mind.

Guests include:

  • EO Wilson, evolutionary biologist at Harvard University and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, explains how the mind is wired for storytelling.
  • Andrew Gordon, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California, is trying to build a computer that can tell a story.
  • Anne Bogart, theatre director and author of "What's the Story," explains the process of translating stories for the stage -- and why she thinks stories can help us save us from our distraction-filled modern life.
  • Writer AJ Jacobs comes clean about his mixed feelings about stories.
  • Psychologist Melanie Green explains that stories influence our behavior and beliefs even when we know a story is false.
  • Chang'aa Mweti, storyteller and professor of education at the University of Minnesota Duluth, explains the role of stories in Kenya, where he grew up.
  • Psychologist Raymond Mar discusses his research indicating that reading fiction can build empathy.