We’ve seen that stories are effective in an intangible way – conveying meaning and purpose through monomyth. But how do we know they work in a tangible way? For that, there’s science – and the science (chemistry, to be exact) reaffirms what we believe to be true: Stories work.
It all boils down to a series of chemicals. First, there’s cortisol. It’s produced when something needs our attention – so when something interesting takes place in the story. Then there’s dopamine that’s produced when we really start to get into the story, rewarding us along the emotional journey. Lastly, there’s oxytocin. It’s produced when we identify with the hero – it amplifies our feelings and emotions.
When combined, these elements – like the elements of any great story – unleash immeasurably powerful potential. Sometimes, it’s through a twist or it’s via a rich and engrossing world, or it’s in the characters who we can identify and empathise with.
We hear, we see, we’re moved – both tangibly and intangibly.
And that’s the power of storytelling.