FOUNDRIE. a three part series [2] the greatest story ever told

In our latest Insta post, we met Maya whose brain played tricks on her to help her remember a story about Pele, the soccer legend. Pretty cool stuff, and we've got more stories about the neuroscience of stories! 

Our brains are wired for storytelling. Before written language, telling stories was how our ancestors understood their place in the world. It's how they communicated, taught lessons, learned about threats or where to find food, and built relationships within villages and tribes. 

Stories have always had a direct and beautiful influence on our social interactions. They have an equally inspiring part to play within each of us as well.

In one of my parenting books [new moms be like], the authors stress a particular saying that neuroscientists have:

Neurons that fire together wire together. 

Well when a story is told, and the neural activity in the brain increases fivefold, all of those neurons wire together in our brains causing us to remember more of the information we're hearing or seeing. 

Finally, there's the fun fact that when you hear a story, there's a release of the love drug - oxytocin - in the brain. Adds a few more warm fuzzies to the saying "sharing is caring". 

 neuroscience behind storytelling brain scans

Stories happen to pull some pretty cool psychological acrobatics too. But first, some background:

In 1998, Harvard scientists founded an organization with the goal of educating the public about hidden biases. They conducted a study exploring thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. 

The Implicit Associations Test (IAT) measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science. 

This is taken to investigate biases across many sociopolitical spheres. A particularly astounding [yet sadly expected] finding was that 70% of test takers automatically associated being black with being bad and being white with being good, as opposed to the opposite (whiteness with badness and blackness with goodness). 

The Unconscious Mind, an article in the Perspectives on Psychological Science by John A. Bargh and Ezequiel Morsella, shines a light on how dangerous these automatic associations are:

The unconscious mind is still viewed by many psychological scientists as the shadow of a “real” conscious mind, though there now exists substantial evidence that the unconscious is not identifiably less flexible, complex, controlling, deliberative, or action-oriented than is its counterpart. This “conscious-centric” bias is due in part to the operational definition within cognitive psychology that equates unconscious with subliminal. We review the evidence challenging this restricted view of the unconscious emerging from contemporary social cognition research, which has traditionally defined the unconscious in terms of its unintentional nature; this research has demonstrated the existence of several independent unconscious behavioral guidance systems: perceptual, evaluative, and motivational. From this perspective, it is concluded that in both phylogeny and ontogeny, actions of an unconscious mind precede the arrival of a conscious mind—that action precedes reflection.

"Think before you act" isn't something that comes naturally to us. However, this is where the method to Foundrie's madness all comes together.

I stumbled upon an interesting integration while reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. It was found that in this 10 year long study, the IAT scores improved when the test takers were exposed to positive stories about Black people before taking the test. 

With stories being a secret agent powerhouse for empathy, truth, and love as we discussed, it stands to reason that to #shareblackstories is to participate in a viable method of shifting society's implicit biases. 

foundrie civil disobedient crop top dancer athlete

Stop by next week when we'll talk about how this method, combined with sportswear fashion, equals activism that's perfect for the athlete, trainer, coach, or gym enthusiast. 

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