If you’ve been following this blog at all, you know I’m a big believer in the power of story. It’s a major focus of my work and my website and a fascinating topic in its own right—one I’m always interesting in exploring further. So when I came across this Ted Talk entitled, “The Magical Science of Storytelling,” I thought some of you might find it interesting as well.
Let me share some of the highlights that stand out for me. The presenter, David JP Phillips, talks about the power of storytelling, how it impacts our lives, and how we can harness that power if we so desire. He starts by telling about a man who bought 200 items on eBay for piddling sums then found writers to create a story for every one of them. When he resold the items, now each with a story attached, he made over 6000% profit.
That’s pretty powerful.
The angel’s cocktail
But it’s the brain chemistry thing that intrigued me most. He talked about how, when we fall in love, our brains are flooded with neurotransmitters and hormones that do crazy things to us and make us feel fantastic. But here’s the amazing thing—the same thing can happen with stories.
An effective story induces neurotransmitters and hormones in our brains, and David discusses three in particular which he calls the “angel’s cocktail.” The first is dopamine. Dopamine has the power to increase our focus, motivation, and powers of memory. After sharing this information, David induced dopamine in his audience by telling a story and then “testing” the audience to see if their focus, motivation, and memory had improved.
Story does this, he says, by building suspense, creating questions and images in the reader’s, or listener’s, mind. All storytelling is dopamine-inducing, creating a sense of anticipation.
The next ingredient in the cocktail is oxytocin, which produces generosity and trust and fosters bonding. David induced it in the audience by telling a deeply personal story and explaining that the effects are achieved by creating empathy.
“Oxytocin is the most beautiful hormone of all, because you feel human.”
The final element of the angel’s cocktail is endorphins which stimulate creativity, relaxation, and increased focus by making the reader, or listener, laugh. For some handy ways to do that, read my article, 5 Side-Splitting Ways to Infuse Humor Into Your Writing, which applies to simple storytelling, as well.
The devil’s cocktail
Everything has its opposite, and the antithesis of the angel’s cocktail is the devil’s drink, with its high levels of cortisol and adrenalin. The devil’s cocktail makes its victim intolerant, irritable, uncreative, critical, memory-impaired, and prone to bad decisions.
Many situations in life face us with folks overdosed on the devil’s drink. But with the power of story, there’s something we can do to help.
David suggests doing two things. First, accept that you are a great storyteller, and have been since birth. You may not believe it, but embrace the storyteller within and you’ll find it’s true.
The second thing is to write your stories down. This is a great idea, not only for the purposes of David’s talk, but to record your personal and family history. What a precious heirloom to pass to your children and beyond.
But when you have a trove of stories, and you share them, you know which ones make people laugh and which make them cry. You now have tools you can use to induce the hormones you wish to induce in your everyday interactions. You have the power to combat the effects of that nasty devil’s cocktail and make a difference in people’s lives.
The YouTube video will take you less than 17 minutes to view and is well worth watching. Click here to experience The Magical Science of Storytelling for yourself.
The power of storytelling is real, and it’s available to all of us. I’m so happy to be able to create and share my stories with you. Thank you for sharing my writer’s journey.
How about you? Have you felt the power of story? Can you remember a time in your life when a story changed the way you were feeling? Share with us in the comments.