Messages delivered as stories can be up to 22X more memorable than messages delivered as facts. If you have yet to learn about the power of storytelling, check out our last blog on storyCRAFT here. By now, you probably have a sense of how storytelling is a valuable asset to your business, but you might not understand why.
The Science Behind Good Storytelling
In 2010 Uri Hasson, a Princeton University neuroscientist, conducted an experiment to understand the connection between storytelling and brain activity. Dr. Hasson used fMRI technology (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). In his study, a graduate student undergoing an fMRI told an unrehearsed story about her disastrous high school prom while listeners were simultaneously scanned via fMRI.
He concluded that when listening to the narration, the listener’s brain activity mimicked the story teller’s brain activity, as exhibited in the image below. Hasson called this phenomenon neural coupling.
More specifically, neural coupling occurs when the brain sees or hears a story; “mirror neurons” fire in the listener’s brain in the same patterns as the speaker’s brain, creating coherence between a speaker’s brain and the brain of their audience members.
Another phenomenon that Hasson discovered in his study is Narrative immersion. Narrative immersion occurs when listeners are invested in a story. This is similar to what we experience when reading a book or watching a movie. In Dr. Hasson’s study, listeners experienced frequent and intense emotional activation, known as emotional reactivity, when listening to a story. Storytelling is able to evoke such strong emotions from listeners, because the listeners’ brains are experiencing sensory cortex activation. This scientific term refers to the process by which the cerebral cortex receives and interprets sensory information (i.e. the story).
The Persuasive Power of a Good Story
Stories are persuasive because they change our brain chemistry. When listening to a story, our brains secrete the following hormones: Cortisol (attention hormone), Dopamine (pleasure hormone), and Oxytocin (empathy hormone). Storytelling puts your listeners’ entire brain to work. Stories are immersive, accessible, and persuasive, which is why our brains crave them. When we hear someone telling a great story, we feel as if we have lived the experience ourselves. Narrative immersion positively influences information recall, because storytelling requires less energy for your brain to process. Complex information is organized in a simple manner, making it easier to recall what you learn from a story rather than simply stated facts.