The Way Narratives Shape Our Personal and Social Perception
Narratives are a way to understand the world around us and our place within it. We are naturally driven to utilize narratives because this is exactly how we systematically make sense of our surroundings. To put it simply, narratives give meaning to our personal and social lives. Humans are not born with narratives. We develop narratives based on our experience, which is essentially the direct and indirect exposure that we have with our physical and media-driven world (Lakoff, 2008).
It is vital to point out that narratives continue to evolve as our personal and social situations change throughout our lives. Narratives are what fundamentally allow us to understand each other. Without our brain's biologically wired ability to utilize narratives, it would not be possible for humans to strengthen personal and cultural connections in our society. Without narratives, we would not be able to empathize with one another let alone form a morally driven society. More importantly, without our brain's innate ability to utilize narratives, it would not be possible for us to understand ourselves including who we were, who we currently are, and who we are expecting/hoping to be in the near future. Hence, our perception of the world is shaped by the different narratives that we encounter in our lives, and narratives play a tremendous and unconscious role in the way we make decisions (Lakoff, 2008).
Humans are natural storytellers. A narrative or story becomes effective when they are driven by metaphors and powerful language that directly attack the reptilian brain as well as our emotions. This is because metaphorical thought is unconscious and automatic, which is what drives our decision making. According to Lakoff (2008), "metaphors are mental structures that are independent of language but that can be expressed through language” (p. 82). Humans are not logical but intuitive beings. For narratives to change the minds of individuals, it is essential that stories contain visual transportations. To put it simply, it is all about taking a person to a fantastic journey. It is about painting an intuitive scenario where a person or a group of people can then rapidly transport themselves to metaphorically speaking "another dimension/world” so that they can make a direct or indirect decision in their lives (Lakoff, 2008).
Humans are wired to think in concepts or systems that make sense when combined. Additionally, our language plays a huge role in the way we perceive our world (Lakoff, 2008). Hence, it is critical to mention that powerful and effective narratives or stories that become embedded in the minds of humans can be dangerous. This is because when people accept a particular narrative(s), they are more inclined to ignore/disregard contradictory realities, or in this case contradictory stories. Not only do we become exposed to effective narratives in our physical world, but mediums of communication including movies, songs, and political campaigns, impact the way we think and act in our society. This is due to the fact that we have a mirror neuron circuitry system that resides in our premotor cortex, which successfully allows us to perceive our surroundings, and to take personal action(s) in our environments based on the thoughts and behaviors of others (Lakoff, 2008).
Lakoff, G. (2008). The political brain. Viking Penguin. Retrieved from