Why are we so attracted to stories? How do they affect the brain? Is it for the better or worse? A recent analysis was done over the course of the last several years trying to decrypt how they change our attitude, opinion and behaviors.
There are two key aspects to an affective story. 1) It must capture and hold the reader’s attention 2) It must “transport” the reader into the characters’ world. Correspondingly, two primary emotions are elicited in many of the most powerful stories: distress and empathy.
Feelings of distress are tied to a release of cortisol, which focuses our attention. Feelings of care, connection and empathy are correlated with oxytocin. Research suggests that the triggering of these chemical changes in the brain through story-telling makes people feel more connected and likely to be kind and charitable.
Read the UC Berkeley Greater Good article here.