March 8, 2009

Facts Fly By, Stories Stick

Last night, I attended an event in the "Brainwave (It Could Change Your Mind)" series at the Rubin Museum of Art. This was a conversation between Miranda July, the author and filmmaker, and George Bonanno, Columbia University psychology professor and expert in emotion. Bonanno stated that birds share more computational language skills with humans than our closest primates.

This fact alone was new and interesting to me. But Bonanno added that former President George Bush, who was "unfriendly to science," cut funding for a perhaps silly sounding, but quite scientifically important, study of Pigeon Language Cognition Skills.

Adding this point of conflict turned a fact into a story. Among communications experts working with story, there is much discussion about what elevates an anecdote into a story. I find the simpliest definition is that a story contains a conflict.

Facts fly by, and stories stick. Bonanno provided a great example of how to take a fact, add a conflict, and make the fact memorable.

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