Ever wondered why one piece of content leaves you cold while another hooks you to the end? Joe Lazauskas explains how the right story taps deep into the brain.

 
By Jonathan Crossfield
 
Like me, I’m sure there have been many times you’ve been unable to switch off that otherwise awful movie or put down that badly written pulp novel (Dan Brown, I’m looking at you). Meanwhile, another technically brilliant film or book with exceptional production values just can’t hold your attention.
The difference is the story.
 
At Content Marketing World 2018, Joe Lazauskas — head of content at Contently and co-author of The Storytelling Edge — talked to me about narratives, neurons, and … Jason Biggs.
 

JC:Why is neuroscience the best argument for marketers to hone their storytelling skills?

 
JL: Storytelling is seen as this wishy-washy ephemeral thing, but that’s actually not true. As human beings we are programmed for stories. They’re part of who we are. It’s how we evolved to understand our place in the world before we had written language, how we passed on lessons for where to find food, or what threats were coming for us, or how to build relationships within our tribes and our families. As human beings, we’re programmed to respond to stories.
 
A few different things happen when we hear a really good story. The first is that the neural activity in our brain increases fivefold. Stories illuminate the city of our mind.
 
Essentially our brains run on electrical pulses, and when we hear stories our brains light up. Neuroscientists have this saying that neurons that fire together, wire together. So, when we’re hearing a story and our brain is lighting up, you have all of these neurons that are then wiring together, which triggers us to remember more of the information we’re getting.
 
Stories do another thing: They trigger the release of this neurochemical called oxytocin, which is known in some circles as the love drug. About ten years ago, all we really knew about oxytocin is that it’s released when, say, a mother is with her baby. But what we’ve discovered since then, through the work of neuroscientists like Dr. Paul Zak, is that stories trigger the release of oxytocin in much the same way.
 
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