If storytelling can really change our behaviours, then shouldn’t we be paying more attention to it in order to engage our audiences into action? To answer this question it is useful to dip into some recent scientific research that looked at the two chemicals of Cortisone and Oxytocin.

The neurochemical called Cortisol–is released by the brain during feelings of distress and therefore makes the audience occupied in the story. By contrast, the neurochemical Oxytocin stimulates feelings of care and empathy and gets people to take actions the story is trying to lead them towards.



Paul Zak did this super fun experiment where he showed people two types of short videos:

  1. A sad story about a father and son that had an interesting start, a clear climax and a surreal ending
  2. An unassuming person walking about aimlessly during the course of the video

The brains of the ones who watched the first video produced the two neurochemicals Cortisol and Oxytocin and were therefore not only more engaged in the story but also took actions that were desirable in that context (donations in this case).

The second video failed to engage the brains of the viewers in any way.

In fact Oxytocin is so effective that in a related experiment, people infused with oxytocin actually were 80% more generous than others when splitting money. This is the power of neurochemicals!

Imagine how great it would be to tell a story that releases oxytocin naturally and makes them care?

So video storytelling can be a great way of helping your audience connect, identify and feel for your cause. These approaches can help release the neurochemicals that can aid further engagement and direct action leading to increased engagement, increased giving and increased time with you. Surely it is worth putting in the time to get these right in the storytelling process. Because without engaging storytelling it is too easy to see your audience drift and disengage with your cause, no matter how noble, relevant and important it is.