Monday, March 12, 2012

Stories, Myths, and As If.

Man, I love everything VI writes.

But the two pieces linked together in the last Modern Mythology post he made really get to me. I want to just highlight one vital portion from the first entry, and then you can follow the links and read what he has to say if you feel like it. But I encourage you to consider it.
'To understand and remember stories, readers integrate their knowledge of the world with information in the text. Here we present functional neuroimaging evidence that neural systems track changes in the situation described by a story. Different brain regions track different aspects of a story, such as a character's physical location or current goals. Some of these regions mirror those involved when people perform, imagine, or observe similar real-world activities. These results support the view that readers understand a story by simulating the events in the story world and updating their simulation when features of that world change. ' - Psychological Science August 1, 2009 vol. 20 no. 8 989-999

'Verbal communication is a joint activity; however, speech production and comprehension have primarily been analyzed as independent processes within the boundaries of individual brains. Here, we applied fMRI to record brain activity from both speakers and listeners during natural verbal communication. We used the speaker's spatiotemporal brain activity to model listeners’ brain activity and found that the speaker's activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener's activity. This coupling vanishes when participants fail to communicate. Moreover, though on average the listener's brain activity mirrors the speaker's activity with a delay, we also find areas that exhibit predictive anticipatory responses. We connected the extent of neural coupling to a quantitative measure of story comprehension and find that the greater the anticipatory speaker–listener coupling, the greater the understanding. We argue that the observed alignment of production- and comprehension-based processes serves as a mechanism by which brains convey information.' -PNAS August 10, 2010 vol. 107 no. 32 14425-14430

Before there was written text or visual media such as film, stories were the primary method of cultural transmission:

'The speaker's activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener's activity'
Let these two statements combine in your head for a moment; see what they point to – scientific evidence that a story can draw you in, change your perception and have an affect on you.”
That, right there, in a nutshell, is the essence of 'As If'.

Now, if your interest is piqued, start with:

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