Continuing on from yesterday’s post, there’s one other interesting thing about the brain that has deep implications for storytelling.
It would seem that to get someone’s attention fully, we need to show or tell them something that does two things to their brain.
First off, it must interest them. When their brain becomes engaged with something that arouses curiosity or some kind of emotional response, it releases the chemical Dopamine. This ensures that their attention will remain on what you are telling them.
You might assume this would be enough, but to really get someone’s attention, you must also get their brain to generate Norepinephrine (or Noradrenaline as we Brits refer to it). As you might guess from the UK version of the name, this is generated in situations of stress or danger.
The most effective state of attention can be attained when these two neurotransmitters are found in the brain in equal amounts. The good news is, because of the brain’s ability to behave the same way in both real and imagined situations, both chemicals should be released when someone experiences a good story, well told.1