If you want someone to remember something, you tell it to them as a story. Stories are more memorable than facts. As a teacher, I knew this to be true for my students. According to cognitive psychologist, Jerome Bruner*, stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts. But if stories are so easy to remember, why did I have so much trouble reading them during the pandemic?
Nonfiction Can Be Read In Small Moments.
Now, and during the pandemic, I’ve read a lot of nonfiction. I find myself getting a general aura of understanding from nonfiction. To recall a fact, I need to reread, pause and jot down a note. It’s a slow process. I can read for small moments and then stop. Once the book is out of sight, the details disappear like the audio book on my library’s e-site. Poof! Nonfiction rarely takes up space in my memory as I go about my day.
Stories Take More Focus
The complexity of stories need more of my concentration to recall characters and basic plot lines. I couldn’t read fiction at all during the pandemic. There was too much happening in the world to allow me to focus. I would pick up a novel, read a few pages and not be able to recall any of it. It was frustrating.
Return Of Focus, Return Of Fiction
But now that my concentration has returned to its pre-covid levels, I’m finally able to enjoy reading fiction. The stories hang in my head as I go about my day and I mull over the clues of my latest detective novel. (I look for plot inconsistencies.) It’s a joy that I don’t have with nonfiction. I’m so glad stories are back in my life.
Do you notice a difference in your reading choices at different times in your life?
*An interesting interview with the then 91 year old, cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner. Click here to read it.