Your Storytelling Left Brain: The Idea Interpreter

Have you ever noticed that people tend to discount information that conflicts with their past experience?  Why is it so hard to motivate people to change, even when there’s a clear pattern of evidence to support your point?  Chances are, your message is getting filtered by the “left brain interpreter.”

Psychologist Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California at Santa Barbara has conducted ground-breaking “split brain” research into the different functions of the left and right hemispheres of the mind.  He has found that the left brain relates and compares new data it receives against past experience.  Decisions are not made in a vacuum. The left brain searches for coherence and makes sense of all new information against the backdrop of memory.  Dr. Gazzaniga says:

“Our personal narratives originate in the left hemisphere.”

Our minds are telling us stories all the time.  This is why the power of stories to learn, lead and sell is so effective. Fighting someone’s story solely with facts and data simply won’t work! For influential change conversations, we must approach one person’s story with a familiar story first. Enjoy the video!

Posted in Learning, Story Tagged with: , , , , ,
2 comments on “Your Storytelling Left Brain: The Idea Interpreter
  1. John says:

    Thanks for the video on left/right storytelling.

    In part it aligns with what I’ve seen elsewhere, but it also disagrees with some of the current thinking on neurology that, starting with puberty, “anchoring” occurs. As common/recurring experiences create set patterns of neuron firing we start to expect to see things in a consistent manner.

    That is why optical illusions work, because your brain “expects” smaller objects relative to diminishing lines to be smaller. That’s also why many jokes are funny, because they are a “surprise.” It’s also why kids often come up with more creative solutions and “see” things differently.

    So, why stories would follow a different path is possible, but interesting.

    Given the experiments were formed with subjects have severed corpus collosums (and other interhemispheric connections), and given that, for 96% of the population the language areas of the brain, broca’s area and wernike’s area, are in the left hemisphere, and given the Dr. said they provided information to the right hemisphere (I assume by occludingthe right ear), the fact that the individual could comprehend the language means some other ability to process language had developed in the right hemisphere. I wonder if that might possibly have some other effect on the story interpreting process, which should usually engage both hemispheres.

    Anyway, its interesting

    It doesn’t change the central message about leading with a familiar story first. Allowing them to become comfortable. There is an opposing point of view which is you want to bombard them with unfamiliar images (pictoral, auditory, combinations) to warm them up to something different. As you probably know, that’s a common technique for innovation and brainstorming exercises.

    Thanks for the story.

  2. Andrew Nemiccolo says:


    Thanks for your comments. Dr. Gazzaniga had done decades of left/right brain research, and there’s a lot more going on in this are of study. Very interesting stuff!

    A couple of things to think about here:

    Some research has shown that the bias against contradictory data is stronger the more emotional the topic is. (Politics and Religion being good examples that most of us can relate).

    The other is that while children are still developing, adults tend to be more set in their ways, and age may be linked to Confirmation Bias.

    In the practical sense, I’ve had to learn this all the hard way as a teacher, sales person and marketer. Once I realized that facts and figures don’t always get through so easily, and I gave myself to use stories more liberally, I became more effective as a teacher, marketer, and leader.

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  1. [...] Research shows that stories can touch our left and right brain hemispheres, for more impact than an exclusively numbers-based argument. Studies [...]

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