We’ve long known that emotions are an important part of our decision-making process. After all, emotions evolved as a way for us to quickly evaluate our environment and guide our behavior. But researchers didn’t realize just how much emotions were needed in the decision-making process
We like to think that we’re logical beings who are in full control of all of our decisions. But the truth is, we’re far more rationalizing than we are rational. We’re moved emotionally and then we often back up our decisions with logic.
And so it follows that if story is a powerful way of moving us emotionally, and emotion guides our behavior, then story will indirectly help drive our behavior as well.
It’s what Andrew Stanton, a storyteller at Pixar, refers to as giving them the “2 + 2” rather than the “4”:
“…we would call this the unifying theory of two plus two. Make the audience put things together. Don’t give them four, give them two plus two.”
When we‘re able to come to our own conclusions through story, we own those ideas. As humans we love ownership. When it’s our own idea, it’ll go much deeper and stay around much longer.
Stories have an incredible ability to let us feel what the character in the story is feeling. And since emotions play such a large role in our behaviour, story’s ability to make us feel becomes a huge part of why it can also guide our behavior.