Note: Why we love a good story

Note

Paul Zak understands the neurobiology of storytelling.

A story does more than appeal to our senses. It attracts our brains and then captures our hearts.

As social creatures, we depend on others for our survival and happiness. But how do we know we can approach strangers? How do we know trust them?

Paul discovered that a neurochemical called oxytocin is key to the safe approach signal in the brain. Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others. It makes us feel better, safer.

Oxytocin boost trust and approachability by enhancing the sense of empathy, our ability to experience others’ emotions. Empathy is important for social creatures because it allows us to understand how others are likely to react.

The best way to produce oxytocin is with character-driven stories that depict human struggle and eventual triumph. The more oxytocin released by the brain, the more people are willing to bond.

Put down the carrot. Burn the stick. Forget the pep talk. And the bonuses. 

When you want to motivate, persuade, or be remembered, start with a story of human struggle and eventual triumph.


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