This is your brain. This is your brain on stories (if you saw the US anti-drug ads of the 80′s, you know where I'm coming from). Turns out stories may be also be mind-altering - in a good way. Does your content marketing trigger neurological responses that leave people wanting to make positive decisions? (And if it does, you should probably be charging your clients more).
New evidence suggests that using storytelling that follows a particular structure can be very effective in creating positive neurological responses, particularly the production of Oxytocin, a feel-good chemical. You always knew you were doing good. Now there's proof... We take a look and provide some tips on producing content marketing stories to generate Oxytocin and get the good feelings flowing.
How Storytelling Affects the Brain
There is increasing evidence that storytelling evokes a strong neurological response in people. Scientist Paul Zak's research indicates that storytelling affects the brain, for example:
during the tense moments in a story our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol which allows us to focus
on seeing characters people can relate to or cute characters the brain releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy
a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, the brain's reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic
Put on your Witch's Hat and Dance...
Paul Zak's research has found is that even a simple narrative can trigger the release of cortisol and oxytocin, provided it is highly engaging and follows what is known as the dramatic arc. The dramatic arc is the structure of a story exemplified by the German playwright Gustav Freytag in his analysis of work from the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare (yes, it's a little Dead Poets Society to draw a diagram of a play, but stay with it).
(This model is sometimes called the Witch's Hat Technique. No, we don't know why either.)
So what? Turns out this is pretty much part of the double-helix of Oxytocin. We have a primal, chemical response to stories told in this structure.
Zak's research suggests that this is a universal storytelling structure because of the way it triggers neurological responses. It can build empathy releasing Oxytocin, create rising tension to produce Cortisol and a good outcome can release dopamine to make people optimistic. His research has demonstrated how engaging stories following this structure can result in people giving more charity or taking specific actions. What's more his research shows that this structure can work equally well in a short two minute story.
Storytelling Tips to Create Positive Neurological Responses
Do you want to give people that feeling? The research from Zak's team suggests you can improve your chances of positive neurological responses from your stories. If you remember 3S, 3C you'll be on your way:
Structure. Ensuring your story follows the dramatic arc structure.
Speed. Quickly getting attention. You have as little as 20 seconds to get the reader's attention.
Sympathy. Using characters which your reader can relate to and attach themselves to. This may simply be someone like them, in a similar role or position.
Conflict. Building rising tension, a flat story will lose attention. This fits with Kevin Spacey's recent comments that conflict is at the heart of a good story.
Complexity. Creating depth in your story, Zak says even shorter stories benefit from emotional complexity. Toy Story is not a children's movie.
Conclusion. A positive outcome to your story.
What stories have wored for you? Share ones that you think are great and let's learn from them.