The Three Functions of Story

Whether or not you realize it, in your mind, you structure your memories into a personal story. The reason for this is seen to be three-fold. We create our own stories to serve these functions:

  • Self

  • Social

  • Directive



When I wake up in the morning, I think to myself, “ah, I’m Brandon!” Why? Because I know the stream of memories that linger from my experiences tell me that I’m the same person when I wake up that I was when I went to sleep the previous night. This is called continuity and my story helps construct it, whether or not I realize it.



we We connect with others through communication. What do we communicate? Experiences. Memories. Stories. Personal stories shared with others build connection and deepen our social bonds. The deeper the stories get, the more intimate the relationships become. We cannot live this life alone and stories help us develop communities.



Have you ever been in a situation where you paused and took stock of the moment, making a decision based on a previous experience you’ve had? Utilizing our stories in this way, to guide current and future choices, is the directive function of stories. We learn lessons extraordinarily well through stories, it only makes sense that learn from our own stories as well.

Our memories encode into our minds as stories. We benefit from this, even if that benefit is unintentional. Take some time to reflect on your experiences and create your story! You will find these benefits come easier and you will become more aware of the functions that your stories serve in your own life.


Special thanks to Drs. Susan Bluck & Nicole Alea. Their research Thinking and Talking about the Past: Why Remember? inspired this blog post. Highly recommended reading if you're interested in learning more about this topic!