How stories make us who we are – RSA discussion with Will Storr

Last Thursday I went to the Royal Society Arts for a lunchtime discussion to launch Will Storr’s new book – The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories make us human, and how to tell them better.

It is out on the 4th April and you can order your copy here

The conversation was chaired by Sophie Scott,  Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL.

If you would like to see the full talk – You can watch it here

Here are some of the things we learned:

Stories shape, as well as reflect, the world we live in, moulding our cultural identities, framing our politics and beliefs, and giving meaning to our experiences.

It is out of these stories that our complex human culture has developed, and by delving into the science of storytelling, we can better navigate the world around us and our experiences in it.

There is a lot of delusion in the way we tell our stories. If your brain is working well, it is not to be trusted, we create heroes, villains, angels as well as empathy and connectivity to make sense of the world we live in.

“If you want your child to be intelligent read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales” Albert Einstein

We seek to create meaning, stories and cause and effect in everything. In experiments, when shown random moving shapes people will create stories from the patterns.  For example,  “the square was bullying the circle.”

“Many believe the brain separates fiction from reality. Not so. In “Reality” the brain stores everything as stories. Humans are creatures of Neverland. We live in Neverland because we can’t not live in Neverland” –Jonathan Gottschall

We don’t like stories where we are the baddies. Positive stories of hope, rather than of villains and catastrophe will be more powerful to galvanise us to take action against climate change.

And on that note – If, like 6heads, you are a climate optimist and believe we can solve climate change and that hope beats fear then please check out – a brilliant website full of online resources, facts and positive stories.

“Stories are compasses and architecture, we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice.” Rebecca Solnit

If you have a story or idea you would like to share with 6heads please get in touch with

The next 6heads meet up is at 6.30 on Tuesday 16th April at the Candid Arts Trust in Angel Islington – hope to see you there.


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