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Personal Growth

Why We Tell Each Other Stories

Humans are natural story tellers, but why? Author Jonathan Gotschall says we tell stories for evolutionary and cultural reasons. We even tell stories to ourselves—and call it our identity. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Author Jonathan Gotschall has written a new book examining why humans are such natural story tellers and what purpose those stories serve in our lives. At an evolutionary level, nature may select for good storytellers, who have a tendency to impress others with their ‘gaudy, peacocklike displays of our skill, intelligence, and creativity.’ Stories also help to bind society together by passing down invented situations in which moral thinking features heavily. “Stories socialize… Stories moralize. They help us figure out our values and whet our need for justice,” says Gotschall. 

What’s the Big Idea?

We also tell stories to ourselves. Whether you are explaining the role of family in your life or how you managed a romantic breakup, the telling and retelling of memories helps to impose order and meaning in an otherwise chaotic existence. “We spend our lives crafting stories that make us the noble—if flawed—protagonists of first-person dramas,” says Gotschall. “A life story is not, however, an objective account.” When it comes to psychological therapy, it may be our ability to tell ourselves modified versions of the truth which aids in recovery from a traumatic event. 

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