Psychologists, neuroscientists and other researchers have been studying the human attraction to storytelling. They’ve discovered our brains are wired to enjoy stories. They’ve also shown that compelling narratives influence our beliefs and real-world decisions.
One communication mechanism identified in the story experience is called “narrative transportation.” When a viewer or reader becomes engrossed in a tale, he or she loses his sense of self and becomes immersed in that world and its characters. (Green & Brock, 2000, 2002)
Researchers at the University of Southern California and other institutions have found this phenomenon is a powerful tool in influencing people to examine themselves and take steps toward healthy decisions and behavior.
Read about the secrets of story telling in the Scientific American
* Viewers who watched a 2004 episode of ER with a minor story line about teen obesity and hypertension reported more healthy behaviors such as exercising and eating healthy. (Journal of Health Communication, 12, 6)
* Audience study of a 2007 episode of Desperate Housewives revealed that the more transported female viewers were by the character Lynette’s lymphoma story line the more they were likely to change their attitudes, knowledge and behavior. (Murphy, Frank, Moran & Woodley)
* An episode of the CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful with a story line about AIDS caused the highest spike in calls to the Center for Disease Control’s 800 number for HIV-AIDS in 2001. (Journal of Health Communication, 54, 2)
* The 2001 NIAAA-funded “Reaching Teenage Drinkers Via the Internet” revealed that teenagers and young adults were more likely to address drug and alcohol problems when they read stories of other young abusers and addicts on the project’s website. (www.realcohol.org)