Jonathan Gottschall

#464: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

#464: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

One of my favorite books that I introduce in every one of my Business of Story mastery courses is Jonathan Gottschall’s, The Storytelling Animal: Why Stories Make Us Human.

It is a fun and enlightening read about the intersection of brain structure and story structure.

I think of it like stories being the software that drives the hardware of our primal pattern-seeking, problem-solving, decision-making buying limbic brain.

The human minds yields helplessly to the suction of story.

Homo sapiens – we storytelling apes – are the only creatures we know that plan, organize and act using storytelling.

Stories are the very first technology our ancestors used to survive and thrive in the Savannah.

Stories were around before fire, agriculture, the wheel, you name it. In fact, it was probably a story, grunted or drawn out in the dirt, that led to each of these evolutionary innovations.

Stories are what we use today to navigate the onslaught of information, media and the internet.

That’s why I’m excited to bring you an interview I did with Jonathan several years ago.

Gottschall is an American literary scholar who specializes in literature and evolution.

He holds the title of Distinguished Fellow in the English department of Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.

Jonathan is the author or editor of nine books including one of my all-time favorites: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human. It’s about the evolutionary mystery of storytelling—about the way we shape stories, and stories shape us and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Gottschall’s latest book came out in 2021 called, The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears Them Down. I hope to get Jonathan back on the show to share his insights from The Story Paradox.

Discussed in This Episode:

  1. What people miss in telling stories.
  2. How to become more effective storytellers in the persuasion and communication trades.
  3. Why the problem/solution structure picks those locks in our brains.
  4. The human mind yields helplessly to the suction of story.


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