Long ago, before Guttenberg’s printing press, before the Chinese invented parchment paper, before clay tablets and papyrus, humans transmitted information through stories.
It turns out that those thousands of years of narrative tradition may have altered our own biology, like a new article published in Cell reveals that narrative stimuli, ie “Once upon a time” or “My fellow citizens”, synchronize fluctuations in heart rate between listening individuals.
Human hearts don’t beat in perfect rhythm. Depending on a person’s fitness level, fluctuations and variability in the regularity of those heartbeats at rest can measure almost whole seconds.
As strange as it may seem that the hearts of a speaker and listeners literally beat as one, the study’s additional findings reinforce the idea of storytelling as a biological determinant. For example, the coincidence of heart rates is determined by the attention paid by the listener to the speaker, and that this phenomenon predicts the memorization of narrative content.
This is not the first time that this incredible connection to stories has been shown to have a biological impact on humans.
It is It has been shown that the brains of people who watch movies together tend to “function collectively,” which suggests why movies can be as enjoyable as a group activity, and why the best movies affect us the way they do, because literally they are changing our biology into “pay attention and remember the way.”
In the heart rate experiment, subjects were presented with a 1-minute audiobook excerpt from Joules Verne 20,000 leagues of underwater travel. They found that there was a significant correlation of heart rate synchronicity between the subjects. To control for error, they gave all subjects different 1-minute sections and, as predicted, heart rate synchronicity was significantly reduced.
This explains why story time is such an effective teaching tool for children.
Distractions were found to disrupt this synchronicity, specifically when during narrative stimuli, participants were asked to repeatedly count backwards.
Most people can probably remember a live performance that kept them spellbound, when the instruments were perfectly mixed or the orchestra was in perfect harmony with the conductor.
It is quite amazing to imagine what is actually happening in that concert hall: all the musicians are playing in a perfectly timed rhythm according to the time stamp of the piece, and all the notes coincide identically along a scale. frequency almost infinitely sensitive, while all the brains of all members of the audience are “ticking” the same, and all their hearts collectively beat until they reach very fine differences.
Essentially, all humans become one great organ of perfect order.
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