This week I presented at the Sydney knowledge management round table and Rod Irwin, the co-ordinator of the group, remarked at just how long one can remember a story. He remembers one he heard in 1978.
There are many reasons why we remember stories much better that other types of information.
Firstly, if the story engages our emotions we will tend to remember it. We remember what we feel.
We will remember a story if it's particularly visual. John Medina points out in Brain Rules that seeing is our strongest sense.
Because stories have a combination of people, events and places, if we forget one part, say a place name, we can often remember the other bits which is often enough to remember the story. And as we tell it the place name can come back to us or our extended memory (our family and friends) fills in the details.
Jerome Bruner suggests that stories are about 22 times more memorable than facts alone.
For all these reasons (and more) stories stay with us and slowly work there way on us, seeping into our unconsciousness and changing our minds.
So don't be disappointed when you tell a story at work in an important presentation and people don't immediately change their mind. An effective story stays with them and in weeks, maybe months, a new way of seeing things will emerge. Patience is needed.