Neurochemistry and the Art and Science of Storytelling

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Brain scans[Series Article] Studies reveal hard science data behind why the sometimes fanciful, sometimes fictional art of storytelling is highly effective as a communications tool. In healthcare marketing, storytelling is growing in popularity from doctor-patient conversations to branding messages.

Of all the stories in the world, there’s one—The Story of Storytelling—where “Once upon a time…” doesn’t quite fit. Stories and storytelling have, as far as we can tell, nearly always been part of mankind and the human existence.

From 40,000-year-old cave paintings to the Academy Award celebration of achievements in the film industry. Myths, legends, oral history, books, painting, poetry, conversations, plays, music, online content, lectures…you name it; the human brain is wired to process and understand information in a story-like way. And, for marketing, effective storytelling is, almost by definition, a means to engage an audience.

Empathy, Neurochemistry, and the Dramatic Arc

In less than six minutes, Dr. Paul Zak’s evocative film (and engaging story) explains how “even the simplest narrative, if it is highly engaging and follows the classic dramatic arc, can evoke powerful empathic responses.” CLICK TO WATCH

science of stories

Nearly every stop on the healthcare delivery spectrum is rich with material and a natural stage for using storytelling effectively. People relate to information wrapped in stories. New and old ideas evoke empathy and understanding in the context of a story.

For more on this topic, previous articles in this series include:

Paul J. Zak is Professor of Economics and the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Zak also serves as Professor of Neurology at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Lonnie Hirsch

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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