The Neuroscience of Storytelling

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson is going to go over the neuroscience of storytelling. Specifically, we focus on a biochemical called oxytocin, what is has to do with storytelling, and how that relates to marketing.


Do you think a scientist can predict what you're going to do before you even know you're going to do it? You might think that's a bit out there, but in this lesson, you're going to find out that, in fact, it's very possible. It all has to do with a hormone called oxytocin and the power of storytelling.

You'll also learn what all of this has to do with marketing for charities and for business. So let's get started!

Oxytocin & Stories

Oxytocin is a peptide (amino acid-based) neurochemical made by the hypothalamus, a part of the brain. It has numerous functions, including the stimulation of uterine contraction during labor, as well as the ejection of milk during nursing.

Beyond this, it also has a role in prosocial behavior. Simply put, oxytocin is heavily involved in motivating positive reciprocal behavior. In other words, if you are nice to me, I'm probably going to be nice to you.

Additionally, studies have shown that a well-crafted story about a person, even a fictional character, can increase the levels of oxytocin in a person's brain, and elicit empathy and subsequent cooperation in the listener. In other words, an emotionally charged story can inspire people to perform an action, partly as a result of the release of oxytocin.

In fact, the science behind this is very strong. By measuring the neurological activity of the body, scientists can predict how likely it is someone will perform a cooperative action, (before they even know they will), after listening to a well-crafted story.

Application to Marketing

What cooperative action? Well, parting with one's own hard-earned money is one possibility.

Not convinced this is possible outside of a lab? Then what about all those carefully crafted GoFundMe campaigns? People have given money to absolute strangers, halfway across the world, when they shared an emotionally compelling story that entailed a need for money.

Or, even more traditionally, we've all seen TV ads where poor children are shown starving or sick, in desperate need of food, clothing, shelter, and medication. You better believe many a charity has used similar storylines to fundraise for one cause or another.

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