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8 Facts About The Neuroscience Of Storytelling

by Story2 Guest Author, on Nov 24, 2014 2:00:00 PM

Storytelling can be a powerful art, but there's no doubt that the importance this time-old practice is rooted in science. Here are 8 facts you should know about the connections between storytelling and science.

1. A good story causes your brain to release a chemical that makes you more empathetic.
A team of researchers in the UK found that the brains of people who listened to character driven stories released oxytocin, a chemical that is connected to feelings of love and empathy.

2. Stories that use sensory details engage more parts of the brain than facts.
Details that help the audience to see and experience the story from the character’s point of view can engage the sensory, motor, visual, auditory, and olfactory sections of the cortex. It’s almost as if you were there too!

3. More than half of all Hollywood movies follow essentially the same plot.
Most successful movies follow a narrative arc known as the ‘hero’s journey.’ Scientists think that this narrative structure is deeply embedded into our collective psyche, and may have helped our ancestors build trust and teach morality.

4. Stories can activate an involuntary ‘fight or flight’ response.
Scientists found that people watching James Bond or similar action-packed movies had elevated breathing and heart rates, sweaty palms, and higher levels of stress hormones.

5. Storytelling may be the only way to change someone’s mind.
Princeton researchers have argued that people tend to challenge arguments based on facts. Stories, on the other hand, can change behavior by stimulating the parts of the brain associated with empathy.

 6. Your brain ignores cliches. 
Overused phrases like, ‘a rough day,’ or ‘one in a million,’ do not engage with the brains of listeners. The frontal cortex—the area of your brain responsible for experiencing emotions—can't be activated with these phrases.On the other hand, action words, or sensory words engage with larger parts of the brain.

7. We spend about half of our waking hours daydreaming. But when engaged in a good story, we pay attention.
Attention is a scarce resource, fragmented, hard to pin down. Yet a good story can cut through all the distraction and create an atmosphere of total focus.

8. Reading fiction makes you a better person.
A study found that people who read fiction are better able to understand and empathize with other people, and to see the world from their perspective. This is likely another effect of oxytocin released by storytelling.

Written by Story2 Guest Author, Matt Gordon.



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