More proof of the power of stories

Word count: 275 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers. Today, I discuss a website focusing on stories.

I’m a big believer in the power of stories. I  can see the impact in my own newsletter, Power Writing: When I tell stories, I get more emails from readers; when I present just the “facts,”  my emails dry up.

I can’t remember who told me about the Future of StoryTelling (could it have been Terry Small?) but this group consists of executives, creators, and technologists who are tracking the way stories are told. “Stories will never die,” says the group, “but the ways we tell them are changing.”

Their website is filled with videos looking at stories from every perspective imaginable. But I’d like to draw your attention to one that might give your heart a particular wallop. Drs. William Casebeer and Paul Zak, study how participants in their lab react to the story of a terminally ill two-year old named Ben. Their video tells us that that when people learn about Ben, the levels of the hormones cortisol and oxytocin rise in their bloodstreams. (The first hormone is associated with distress and the second, with empathy.)

But here’s the interesting part: other stories that fail to follow the dramatic arc of Ben’s narrative — no matter how happy or pleasant those stories may be — elicit little if any emotional or chemical response. It fascinates me that this stuff can be tracked scientifically. And if you don’t believe it, take six minutes and watch this remarkable video.