In his 1897 book What is Art? the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy defined art as “an infection.” Good art, Tolstoy wrote, infects the audience with the storyteller’s emotion and ideas. The better the art, the stronger the infection—the more stealthily it works around whatever immunities we possess and plants the virus. Tolstoy reached this conclusion through artistic intuition, not science, but more than a century after Tolstoy’s death this is exactly what psychologists are finding in the lab. When we enter into a story, we enter into an altered mental state—a state of high suggestibility.
Note that this goes against our culture’s dominant idea about stories. When I ask my students why people like stories, most cite escapism. Life is hard. Storyland is easy. Stories give us a short vacation from the troubles of our real lives. We enter the pretend worlds of stories and have a nice time, and then walk away unscathed and unchanged. But if we think this we are wrong. Studies show that our fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by our stories.
Keep Reading Jonathan Gottschall article here: https://www.fastcocreate.com/3020046/infecting-an-audience-why-great-stories-spread
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