From Scott Van Voorhis, writing for the Harvard Business School…
It doesn’t matter if you’re crafting a pitch for tech investors, consumers, or election-season voters. If you want your target audience to remember your message the next day, tell a story.
That’s one of the findings of a new study by Thomas Graeber, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. People are more likely to recall information over a longer period when it’s wrapped in an anecdote as opposed to statistics, according to the study, “Stories, Statistics and Memory.”
Graeber’s research validates what CEOs have long known: that a good story is more powerful than any statistic, chart, or slide deck. However, this is not necessarily because stories are more inspirational or persuasive. Rather, it is because of how our memory works: People are more likely to remember the story as time passes.
The human mind’s love of stories over statistics can have serious implications that go beyond the question of the best approach for leaders. The preference for anecdote over stats can fuel misinformation on issues ranging from climate change to welfare reform, Graeber says.
“There is now a growing interest in understanding memory in economics,” Graeber says. “The question can be better understood as how people learn from qualitative information. If you think about it, it’s not that people communicate by numbers, but by natural language, by stories. A newspaper article is not just numbers.”
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