TED Talks

The Rhythm of Communication

Uri Hasson — This Is Your Brain on Communication

In this TED talk, Uri Hasson (Princeton Neuroscience Institute) pulls back the curtain on what happens in the brain during storytelling. He and his team used fMRI to measure neural activity in the brain of the storyteller and in the brain of the listener.

So what can we take away from Hasson and his findings? We need to keep telling our story—we have to share our experiences with others, and search for common ground in each other’s experiences. By doing so, we build connections that have the power to solve our greatest challenges.

In the storyteller’s brain, there is a characteristic brainwave activity pattern that emerges as they tell their story. Now here’s the amazing part: that same pattern can be seen in the brains of the audience as they become engaged in the story! This phenomenon is known as Neural Entrainment, and can be thought of as the neural equivalent of tapping along to a song’s rhythm. Even more astonishing is that the characteristic pattern of neural entrainment that appeared when the listener heard the story will emerge again when the listener shares the story with another person!

This research demonstrates that engaging communication produces a recognizably similar brainwave pattern in both the communicators and the receivers. One implication here is that when we say people are on the same wavelength, or that they ‘got’ the message, we may be recognizing the moment of neural entrainment the same way a musician watches for the audience to start tapping their feet and nodding along to the music. As Hasson points out, we find “common ground.”

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