Cognitive science has long recognized narrative as a basic organizing principle of memory. From early childhood on, we tell ourselves stories about our actions and experiences. We are the heroes of these tales, our trials and victories the stuff of epic legend. Accuracy is not the main objective – coherence is. If traumatized, our minds will invent things that never happened, people who don't exist, simply to fill in the gaps of memory and hold the narrative together.
It is no wonder, then, that narrative fiction and nonfiction, in the form of novels, biographies, reality tv, even advertisements have such lasting power to hold our attention and embed themselves in our long-term memory – a power that we can harness for good, for evil, and/or for profit.
The Big Think, Short Fiction Contest is an experiment in using big ideas to inspire powerful storytelling. The short stories of author Nathan Englander explore the contradictions, absurdities, and sublime beauty of ordinary people's lives. And neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga studies how storytelling works in the brain.