The Empathy Factor
There is an evolving body of research on the role of empathy and the role it plays in changing hearts and minds. One frequently-cited neuroscientist, Dr. Paul Zak, founder of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of neuroeconomics at UC Berkeley, is credited with the discovery that the oxytocin in our brains functions as a moral molecule. It helps trigger a feeling of empathy when we emotionally connect to others. The greater the positive connection, the greater the sense of empathy.
“Empathy – attending to, sharing in, and understanding others’ subjective experiences --
critically supports an individual’s ability to socially engage with others.”
–Jamil Zaki, Stanford University
Creating empathetic storytelling to influence audiences is strategic. Empathy is often understood as an ability to feel the experiences of another from their point of view. It can cause people to lower their guard and be more receptive to information outside of their world view. Creating empathy can be a way to undo otherness and counter stereotypical representations. As storytellers, we are masters of narrative transportation, of fully immersing viewers in a story. Empathy goes goes hand-in-hand with narrative transportation: when viewers are fully immersed in a film, they are more likely to align their attitudes with those reflected in the story.