Narratives - Neuroscience and psychology
September 19, 2014 12:52 PM   Subscribe

What are good layman-level books and articles on how the brain interprets narratives (books, television, or any other form of story)?

I want something like "This Is Your Brain on Music", but for stories.

Anything covering the chemical reactions that we get when we read or watch a story, or the psychological effects/reasons for those reactions.

Here are a few false examples I've just made up to show what I'm looking for:
1) When we read a story heavy on catharsis, we get a serotonin flood at the end and so we feel happy
2) People with thicker corpus callosums prefer stream-of-consciousness writing because it's easy for them to make connections and keep track of long-winded sentences
3) You can use operant conditioning to train yourself to prefer one type of story over another
4) As a population we've shifted to preferring man vs nature to man vs man narratives because we know our biggest problems have shifted to extinction-level environmental threats

posted by rebooter to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

All about how the brain makes decisions. The logic, not the chemistry.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2014

I unfortunately don't have any recommendations for you, but I did want to see if you've researched "narrative therapy" at all. It's becoming more popular, and books in that field might be what you're looking for.
posted by mermaidcafe at 2:04 PM on September 19, 2014

You might want to check out Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
posted by three_red_balloons at 3:12 PM on September 19, 2014

Perhaps this article from Aeon on the redemption narrative's power of transformation?
posted by wallawallasweet at 4:39 AM on September 20, 2014

Dehaene's Reading in the Brain is a popular science approach to reading more generally (but not narrative specifically). There has been a lot of recent interest in the relationship between reading fiction and theory of mind. For example, Lisa Zunshine's Why We Read Fiction is intended for the lay audience--but she's in Literature/Cultural Studies rather than psych or neuroscience, so her take on the research might differ a bit from those fields.

You might find the following not-lay articles to be worth checking out:
Mar (2011), The Neural Bases of Social Cognition and Story Comprehension
Oatley (2012), Cognitive Science of Fiction
Bal and Veltkamp (2013), How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation
Kidd & Castano (2013), Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind
posted by svenx at 6:13 PM on September 20, 2014

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