The Science Behind Storytelling

Bonnie A.
4 min readApr 10, 2022

Storytelling is ancient and intrinsic to human experience. Before written language or print, our predecessors depicted stories in visual form. Researchers estimate early drawings found in a cave in Chavaux, France are at least 30,000 years old. After visual forms of storytelling developed, oral tradition ensued. Storytelling took on this form for generations, morphing into the written narratives we have today.

Why Does Storytelling Matter?

Storytelling has an innate ability to stir psychological emotions in the brain. Unlike fact-based writing, stories engage the feelings of its audience. The complex influence of stories on the human brain has forged a scientific interest into the cognitive mechanisms of storytelling.

Researchers have also found that people remember information when presented in a story form versus a factual form. People remember things better when told a good story. These researchers also discovered that the emotional impact of a story is unchanged whether or not the narrative is true or false (Hartung F, Withers P, Hagoort P, Willems RM 2017).

Princeton neuroscientist, Uri Hasson studies the neurological impact of storytelling. Using Magnetic Resonant Imaging (MRI), he found his participant’s brains began to ‘sync up,’ or show similar brain activity while listening to the same story. He calls this alignment, which shows the power of a story to affect people from different places, or languages when they hear the same story (in their own language).

Storytelling is a powerful tool in the modern age. It is used in written, photographic, or videographic formats as well as in mixed media. Storytelling is important for marketing, businesses, and personal branding nowadays.

Storytelling is An Emotional Experience

Storytelling has the power to elicit positive or negative hormonal reactions. In a TED Talk, David JP Phillips mentions the positive or “angel’s cocktail” of emotions are: dopamine, oxytocin, or endorphin. The negative reactions or “devil’s cocktail” induce cortisol or adrenaline.

We ignite dopamine reactors in the human brain when we use mystery and cliff hangars to build suspense. Yes, that elusive hormone that keeps us coming back to medium, Instagram, the metaverse to…

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Bonnie A.

If we don’t tell our stories, who will? Co-founder of goodsteadusa.com Polaroids @instantdreamlight