Narrative and Memory

We need stories.

“Narrative, one of the brain’s key strategies, helps engrave memory,” writes Diane Ackerman in An Alchemy of Mind.

She writes about a memory study in which Cornell psychologist Ulric Neisser surveyed students in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Atlanta. The students were asked about the earthquake in California in 1989.

He followed up with them a year and a half later and discovered the California students were better able to recall the events of the earthquake better than the others surveyed. Essential to the California students’ recall were stories — the California students talked about the quake.

Stories were essential to memory.


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