Oxytocin and Building Empathy in Storytelling

In Blog, Technical Storytelling by Jordan Urbs

Humans are empathy machines, whether we like it or not. We may have social blockages up in our real lives when interacting with others, but when it comes to storytelling, introducing a character’s life and the problems he or she faces creates an inexplicable bond with the audience.

As many brands have begun to demonstrate as of late, evoking empathy is a powerful marketing technique.

grayscale photography of kids walking on road

Oxytocin for Empathetic Storytelling

We’ve all heard of oxytocin in some form or another. For me, it was people telling me that oxytocin was playing tricks on me every time I fell in love, every year or two. It’s a bonding hormone that exists platonically within families (especially from mother to child) and it’s released in cuddling and orgasm. Less graphically, it also comes out when there is humor between two people.

You know that good feeling you get when you and a stranger share a random joke or humorous situation, and smile together? That’s oxytocin release.

Oxytocin in storytelling takes dopamine response to the next level and brings your audience deeper into the reality of your character. This process creates trust and evokes the empathy that may be required to encourage a certain call-to-action at the finale of your story.

As we discuss in the PELEIO Storytelling Guide, a call-to-action is not always simply for marketing videos. Audience engagement also happens in narratives, from product placements to emotional reactions.

Example of a Video Story that Stimulates Oxytocin Production

It may be a bit plain, a guy in a room speaking to a group, but see what he did there? How can you not feel some sort of empathy for him in the hospital and the drama surrounding his newborn? Let’s not leave out the cinematic music he put on in the background.

How to Stimulate the Brain to Produce Oxytocin With a Video?

As simply put as possible: with vulnerability and truth in your character.

Beyond that? The right music, and some slow motion. Dramatic visuals of your subject, the right cinematography

As brain science in storytelling goes, dopamine will help us care about the surface level plot because our curiosity has been piqued. Once this has been accomplished, oxytocin will soon have us genuinely concerned about the well-being of a character, beyond simply our anticipation to find out what happens next.

Optimize Your Audience Reaction With A Video Storytelling Guide

It’s not terribly difficult to write and create stories that use the art and science of storytelling in the brain. But it does take practice. The PELEIO Storytelling Guide will help you practice putting your story together without breaking the bank. Meanwhile, the PELEIO Video Storytelling Community can help you manage what you need to share about your brand while still maintaining healthy audience engagement.