The Science of Storytelling – Homo Fictus


Here at Sutton Young we’ve been telling authentic stories for over 25 years.

We’ve always intuitively believed in the power of storytelling and authenticity to create impact for our clients’ brands and marketing.

Breakthroughs in Neuroscience over the past few years have revealed that our intuition was spot on.

The brain loves stories. We are hardwired for them, In fact, our brains are constantly looking for stories. Daydreaming is our default state.

And the link between memory and stories is tightly woven. We remember things that create an emotion; things that are interesting to us, especially things that are out of the ordinary.

Our minds actually prefer stories to facts. We now know that stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone (source: Stanford University research)

What Neuroscience has discovered is that being told a story actually changes the way our brains work, physically and chemically.

A well told story engages both the front of our brain that deals with facts but also additional areas:

  • Sensory cortex and cerebellum, associated with processing texture and sensation
  • Motor cortex, when we read about physical movement
  • Olfactory cortex for smell or memories of smells
  • Visual cortex for colour and shape
  • Auditory cortex for sound

So while facts and figures engage a small area of the brain, stories engage multiple brain regions that work together to build colourful, rich three-dimensional images and emotional responses.

What does this mean for branding and marketing?

“Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories. A story is a journey that moves us, and when we goes on that journey we feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.” (Jennifer Aaker, Marketing Professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business)

Some of the recent discoveries in Neuroscience are proving that even when we think we are making decisions based on ‘logic’, we are often unconsciously and instinctively being driven by our emotions.

And if emotion rather than logic is really the driving force of so many of our decisions, then stories are the most effective way to share information, connect people emotionally and build commitment.

When data and authentic stories are used together, they are more likely to inspire action, because people are moved both intellectually and emotionally.

In our age of information overload, never underestimate the power of a good story.