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E42. The Vampire Science of Storytelling with Dr. Paul Zak



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Dr. Paul Zak Poe is a scientist entrepreneur, best selling author and speaker. His two decades of research have taken him from the Pentagon to Fortune 500 boardrooms, to the rain forests of Papua New Guinea. During this ongoing journey all discover the neurochemical oxytocin as the key driver of trust, love and morality, and is one of the pioneers of using neuroscience to quantify the impact of movies, advertising stories, and consumer experiences. His latest book is trust factor, the science of creating high performance companies. Paul might also be running the most sophisticated, long con in history, because he spent more than a decade studying trust. He has been nicknamed Dr. Love, and he hugs everyone he meets. And I think this is all so he can get close to us and take some more of our blood. Ladies and gentlemen, Bozek. Bow


Paul Zak 2:03

Welcome to the show. Back here Francisco best intro ever.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:10

So I I recently read your first book, I believe the morrow molecule. And at some point there you talk about how you are the founder of what I was almost called the Empire economics. Which might sound a bit of a redundant name, because I think most people would assume that, you know, blood sucking is is a natural part of economics in the markets. So maybe neuro economics ended up being a better name for it.


Paul Zak 2:39

I think so. Yeah. So I'm actually a really practical person, you know, I just tried to understand what these real interesting creatures to humans are doing. And by measuring changes in neuro chemicals, it gave us a kind of a fresh set of data streams to understand why people do what they do. And you see the humans, they're really weird and fascinating. And so just trying to figure out why, you know, they like A, B, or C or do A, B, or C, it's really a hard problem. Actually,


Francisco Mahfuz 3:07

I'm all for weird, and I think weird can be turned into into a very good thing. So in the beginning of the book of the moral molecule, you're opening is one of the favourite openings of any science book that I've read in a long time. So you talk about arriving at his wedding in in England, you say I got out of my car. And then I got my 150 pounds centrifuge, 30 kilos of dry syringes, 156, pre labelled test tubes toward the cats, alcohol perhaps and then the hits. And I thought, I don't know what he's gonna do in this way. But But I definitely want to read


Paul Zak 3:42

this. Yeah, I think the nice thing about measuring neurochemical changes in blood is you can take it anywhere. And that's why I, you know, had been to weddings in the rainforest in areas. And yet that technology is only a starting point, right? So when we want to look at consumer experiences, and storytelling and entertainment, going into theatres and taking blood from people, although I've done that many, many times, it's not really the most effective way. What's nice about blood is you get a very concrete before and after, right? So if I gave you an experience, and I see a change in in neurochemicals, and that change correlates with some behaviour I can observe because no chemicals are changing all the time, then I have confidence that those neurochemical changes caused the behaviour. But the technology we've developed the last 15 years or so which uses electrical signals that are induced by those neurochemical changes. Give us a scalable technology to understand not only why people are doing what they're doing, but to take that technology, any place without needles, and really began to ask very interesting questions about storytelling.


Francisco Mahfuz 4:51

Yeah. So my understanding of the science of storytelling as a lot of people think of it these days is that it seems to me that At least one part of it you were single handedly responsible for or the single handedly, as any scientist is considering you have a team that works with you. But this this conversation that is now fairly common in the field, about the chemical changes in the brain, what hormones are released when you tell stories, which I, I have suggested to someone who talks about the stuff a lot that maybe could be called hormonal storytelling, but that didn't sound right. The vampire storytelling will give a completely different idea of what it is but but this type of this field, I think, started with your research, didn't you? I


Paul Zak 5:37

think people were moving around it. But certainly we had developed kind of a protocol as a set of technologies, if you will, to really look at these neurochemical changes. And you know, some listeners may know I'm semi famous for identifying the behavioural effects of oxytocin, this neuro chemical that is made when we hug people, when when we basically anytime we have a nice experience, our brain produces oxytocin, that increases our empathy reduces our stress levels and motivates cooperative behaviours. Hey, that's what humans do. Awesome. So we have a protocol to measure that. And as we started to look at the ways to induce the brain to make oxytocin, we started using narratives just because they had come motional content, and we know that face to face interactions work. So let's see if it works kind of at a distance. And then once we did that, we found Oh, guess what the story is more complicated than just oxytocin. Right. So I think one of the key takeaways for listeners is that if I identify a story as being valuable, by inducing some behaviour, I can observe, we could discuss whether that's the right measure or not, but buy a ticket to a movie, but you know, some whatever those things are, and I can observe that oxytocin is just one part of that story is actually a much richer story. That is the brain is actually much more complicated. So we had to dig into all those those kind of factors and ask, what is it about storytelling that's makes us remember something makes us share it on social media makes us a byproduct, effort advertisement? And the short answer is, it's not about liking. So I don't care if you like my story. And then people go, Oh, no, like, that's not right. Particularly as writers, right, like, Oh, my God, I should write my story. But if you talk to great artists, often they will say, I don't care what the public thinks about my creation, I'm using my own kind of metric my own body as a measure of impact. Like if I love it, then some subset of humans will also love it. But I don't want to do the opposite. I don't want to say, Well, I'm just going to make something I think people are really going to like because then you get the sort of averaging out you don't get anything extraordinary out of that. So I think a lot of our work has focused on the underlying neuroscience of extraordinary experiences. And story is one part of that are some stories are part of


Francisco Mahfuz 7:47

that. I want to get back later to the liking part, because I think there's some very interesting conversation there. But just to take a step back, you start you figured out that story might be something to look into. Because of embarrassing yourself in an aeroplane watching a movie, right?


Paul Zak 8:03

Right. Yeah, watching that emotional movie and and hold on.


Francisco Mahfuz 8:07

It's a million dollar, baby. It's not that emotional.


Paul Zak 8:11

Yeah, well, you know, I thought I thought on the aeroplane is turbulent. I can't do any work. So I'll watch the movie, Clint Eastwood movie, right, you know, and it's a father daughter story, and I have daughter through so yeah, the end if you've seen the movie, it's an older movie now, but it's very, very sad. Ending. And I was like crying like a like a baby, like, embarrassingly bad, like not snot come out of my nose. This was bad. And the guy next to me, pokes me goes like, Do you need some help, sir, like. And so I went back to my lab. And as you said, this is a great thing about having a lab and having smart people around you. And I mentioned this to one of my colleagues, who's a psychologist, he goes, Oh, yeah, psychologists do this all the time, we use emotional stimuli to change people's feeling states. And I'm like, wow, wonder if that would cause the brain to make oxytocin. Because again, we've always done kind of interpersonal interactions, which is the kind of classic role of oxytocin as this kind of bonding chemical without going to movies do it. So we did we took a short movie clips, as I said earlier, because the brain is not is not designed to accurately relate one's own emotional states with any any fidelity right? So it's like the liking question, right? How much do you like my iPhone? I don't know compared to what compared to my kids compared to my dog my dogs never spoken back to me. I love my dog. Right. So I think you know, trying to assess liking or persuasion is those are emotional states. And so that's where technology has to come in play. And so um, so yeah, we just began experimenting with short video clips. And then you know, this is I think, maybe the experience you had as well Francisco which all sudden the scales fall through your eyes you go, Oh, holy crap, this video clip which is so effective at causing the brain to back oxytocin has a narrative arc. We didn't think about it we click this thing out from a longer video that we had found, and it has to know as a mystery introduce characters has tension has a crisis that crisis resolved. and it has an implicit call to action in it like, Oh, that's a really good video that we just happen to pull out. And so once you see this storytelling, you go, Oh, this is really effective. And then if you want, we can talk about why storytelling is so effective from a neuroscience perspective. Yeah, I


Francisco Mahfuz 10:15

think it's worth mentioning that, you know, I'm trying to make fun of you both crying, watching a Clint Eastwood movie. But I I have once cried watching Baywatch. So, so maybe I don't have I'm not standing on firm ground here.


Paul Zak 10:30

Oh, Pam Anderson, I do my


Francisco Mahfuz 10:33

credit. He wasn't about under some it was there was a there was a kid with Down syndrome. And they're doing like a relay race or something. And this kid is behind everyone. And he falls over. And he stands up and he keeps running. And then everyone runs alongside him, because they're always running in that show. But he keeps kept falling and getting up and running. And I might have been going through an emotional breakup at the time. But I remember, my brother came in, I was like, Why crying, watching Baywatch. I was like,


Paul Zak 11:01

Oh, he's so brave. But this is really interesting. So let's just unpack this for a second, which is, you know, our neurologic responses are a function of our own internal states, as well as the external stimulus that we have. And we can't separate those out. So we actually do find when we look at the underlying neurologic signals that come from, from experiencing stories, that that internal state matters a lot. So in particular, individuals who by personality or are warmer, who are more empathic, have a bigger emotional response. These are warm, very warm people. So they have a much bigger response to that we find, for example, gender differences, we find some age differences, as people get older, they tend to be less effectively, emotionally regulating their brains, so they tend to be a little more emotional. And so you see an H gradient. So I think from from professional storytellers, branders, you really do want to think about not just kind of the average environment you're in but their own state? Are they tired? Are they stressed, having not slept? Right would behave very differently. And so I think that's where, again, having an objective measurement tool gets away from I don't like that. So he is a classic example that you may not, which is the movie Marley and may talk about a weeper. Nice. You know, so I live outside la as we do, you know, my company has a lot of work with movie studios. And so anyway, that there's two that produce as I told me the story, which is, hey, we test screen, this movie, and the whole point of the movie is that the doc has to die at the end of the movie, right? Because that tells the humans about living their life fully and all that. So it's just part of the narrative arc. And all the screeners had, oh, he can't let the dog die. Honestly, sad is off the dog, the dogs got to live. But the whole point of the whole frickin movie is that the dog guys, right, that's the whole setup of the movie, and that the the owner, and the family evolves as the dog gets older. And so that's asking people who are kind of naive about storytelling to tell you what you should do as a storyteller, right, as opposed to what closes that narrative arc, what creates a valuable emotional experience. And so that's what really we found from a neuroscience perspective is that the brain values, these storytelling experiences, these rich, emotional social experiences create value in the brain. And when you create value in the brain, the brain saves that information in a very distinct way that makes it more easily recalled later. So that's why we remember things that have high emotional content. And so great stories can do the same thing. They're a very effective way to transmit information to help people remember that information and to motivate action after an experience. Well, that sounds like that trifecta for an effective communication.


Francisco Mahfuz 13:45

So some people love saying, a line which I've seen, you take exception to, which is the brain is made for stories. But I have explained this to people in a way that I think is a bit simpler, which is that stories are the language, the evolutionary language of the brain. And when certain key things are present in your communication that tells the brain what I need to pay attention to this, there's probably a learning experience here. So if you touch all those points, then the brain will retain that information. Because when stories originally appeared, they were there to share knowledge of evolutionary, valid content, so danger and gossip and reproductive tips. So anything that will help people survive and thrive. And to this day, although a lot of people talk about how stories need to capture attention very quickly, and you know, the 15 seconds or eight seconds will be banded around. My experience as a storyteller is that the moment something sounds like a story, you automatically get an A certain amount of higher attention that you wouldn't have gotten if I'm just giving you an opinion. So when I started selling, you know, 10 years ago, when I was living in London, I bought myself an extra five or six seconds of attention just by Starting as a story starts it, I don't need to have a super exciting thing right at the beginning because I'll get some attention just from telling a story. So you were referring before to a video, I know which video we're talking about. You're talking about Ben's story. So can you just give people the extra summary of what that video was that you guys were showing your your subjects to figure out if oxytocin was released in narratives?


Paul Zak 15:25

Yes, this is a story that we got with permission from St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. And it was used for fundraising as part of a longer seven minute video and we clipped out 100 seconds of that, which introduces this little boy Ben, who's bald, he's clearly in a hospital. He's clearly sick. He's about two years old, and the father talks to the camera, about how St. Jude did surgery and chemo one, Ben, and now Ben's done with chemo, and he doesn't feel that crap anymore. And he's happy. But Ben's father knows that Ben is dying, even though the child does not know this. And so we've introduced characters, we have a crisis now. And the crisis is that the more time Ben's father spends with his child, the more it's going to hurt when the child dies. And yet you see Ben play and you see how joyful he is. And this the story really is a hero's journey. And that for climax of the video, the father says, you know, if Ben can be happy, I'm going to take I'm going to stay with him with every breath he takes, and oh, my God, what a great father. It's a true story. And and Ben really has died. Now what's interesting, I think, from us from a sort of a science perspective, is that even telling us it's just you know, it's heartbreakingly sad that, because as I said earlier, there are so many neurochemical changes that happen all the time in the brain, we always want to put in an action to determine whether the neuro congenial changes, we see other words, all of us the story, if it was sort of the story, then it should be related to an action associated with a story or not just random background noise, okay? Because the brain is working on millisecond frequency, really, things are happening fast. So we, because we're doing blood draws before and after blood draws, we pay people like 40 bucks to watch this video, and we send out if you remember, you know, yet answer a quick question at the end, you know, was there a car in the video? And if you answer that, you know, if you pay attention to answer that question, then that will pay you 40 bucks. And then we say, by the way, do you want donate any money to St. Jude's, half the people watch that video, donate money? Now let's get interesting. It's like, again, the crying at the movies. If you're at all thoughtful, you understand that this video is not happening now that that little boy Phil had months to live? He's probably already dead. Why are you donating money? It's a great question, right? Because you're human maybe because there are other boys like Ben maybe. But that video must have done something interesting, something kind of powerful in your brain so that this harder, literally blood money we've given you to be in this experiment, you're going to give some or even all of that some people's cases to St. Jude's. And so that to me is the real mystery is why does story grab us so tightly? And in the short answer that is effective stories with authentic emotions make us care. And that care is the value that I said earlier that the brain places on this story. So if I place a value on this in my brain, then it can motivate me to do something about that. So so when we think about story, you know, think think of story as building tension in your brain, right? So we're building tension. And if I build enough tension in your brain, neurologically, I don't like tension, tension, stressful. So I can dissipate that tension by doing something. So the takeaway for storytellers is have that explicit or implicit call to action, if it's a heck of a good story, then people gonna want to do something with it, not later. Now. Do it. Now, when you've grabbed them, don't let that energy dissipator that tension dissipate, give them a chance to do something. And we found and others now have used that video over and over and over in experiments, including with criminal psychopaths and with psychiatric patients. And it's a really effective way to stimulate the brain to make oxytocin. So that's why we use it clinically, to pro people's ability to you know how this chemical works in the brain. But from a storytelling perspective, or a business perspective, if you've captured someone captured that tension, let them dissipate it by doing something post on social media, email your congressperson, right. We've tried all these different things and oxytocin and the associated some other additional associate neuro chemicals that we can talk about, derive that desire to be part of the story by doing something. And again, that's in the psychology literature. It's called Narrative transportation. It's as if that is your child, Ben is your child. You're the father who sees him dying, and you want to do something about it.


Francisco Mahfuz 19:42

Those are the two main things that we're trying to happen into the brain while you're watching a story reading a story or experiencing a story are the tension and the emotion so the tension if I'm correct, it's the adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is what produces cortisol RIGHT? OKAY. That's the tension part because I've seen a lot of people refer to that as the dopamine with the dopamine or something else


Paul Zak 20:04

go for beings in this in the central level. So we're looking at peripheral, so is the same response. So it's orienting arousal, okay, call to attention. First thing is get your attention. Okay? So the


Francisco Mahfuz 20:15

attention is the first, the first key part and then you have the body oxytocin is going to kick in, all through the climax, and through the emotional resonance of the story through the characters that you care about. Now, I understand that, so what you described was the test narrative, but you had a control as well, which was, I guess, was just the father walking around with with a kid that is bald, which typically is the image of we have of cancer patients is about kid. And I think there was something else that didn't, wasn't the kid referred to at some point in the video as miracle boy, or boy. Okay,


Paul Zak 20:50

so they're walking around the zoo. Okay. Hydrotech, and St. Father and son, but there's no narrative arc, it's just hanging out.


Francisco Mahfuz 20:56

Yeah. And the question I had, when I, when I read that is, what I can clearly see why the second one will be a lot more effective. But my query was, was the control a lot less effective or not effective at all in generating the same chemical reaction in the brain? Because there is no conflict in it, or just because nothing much happens. So if something similar happened, but emotional level was dialled way down, right, so if if the father just mentioned something without going through, as much as he goes through in the in the in the main video, would you just have gotten a lower reaction? Or is a trash hold question? Because the first one is not really a story. The first one is, I couldn't quite figure it out by reading it. Was it just a bad story? And then we buy? That's why we didn't get the reaction? Or just what I mean?


Paul Zak 21:53

Yeah, so that's a really good question. So there is a threshold to motivate action, I've got to have sufficient kind of neurologic activation. So as you said, the first thing is attention. So a story starts in my brain kind of switches on I'm just idling and before my story starts. So I get this essential response driven by dopamine in the peripheral nervous system, that's ACTH, and cortisol, so I get this arousal response. And now if I can develop tension, enough tension, then I start to care about the characters as the oxytocin response, as you call it, emotional resonance, I start to to emotionally connect to those characters. When both those things co occur. I call that neurologic state immersion. So I'm attentive and I care about these these characters in the story. I'm immersed in it, I'm part of that story now. And so essentially, what we see as social creatures, because we're so acute to social information, is a kind of monkey see monkey do effect. So if I can capture, if I can immerse you in that story, I can capture that that effect, then if the man in the story is helping St. Jude's save kids lives, but you think, Oh, well, I'm a human, you'll think this is all unconscious. But you know, the responses? Oh, apparently the humans care about kids with cancer. I'm a human. I should care about kids with cancer. And so that's really interesting. That tells us why marketing works, but also tells us why, you know, we want to see stories over and over and over. And there's this long debate that you I'm sure you are aware of us. They're just one universal story. We could have a long debate about that. But


Francisco Mahfuz 23:24

I think I think the answer is no.


Paul Zak 23:27

I mean, I could see the trailer for Marley and Me. Yeah, pretty much guess what that story's gonna be like, why am I still going to the movie, I'm getting something from it. Right? It has to be as you said, I'm learning something. I kind of know that lesson already. live life to the fullest life is short creatures around us. Being outside with an animal is a great way to interact with your environment. You know, I know those but to have it illustrated in such a effective way in such a powerful way. It somehow creates value in my brain. So as you said, we evolved to do this, we somehow figured out, you know, Aristotle talked about it 2300 years ago, that story structure is an effective way to immerse you in that so again, I've got to have some conflict. I've got to have a motion. Yeah, so that said, baseline comparisons story, if you will, you know, didn't have an ark, it didn't have a conflict didn't have real emotions. It does talk about miracle kid with a nice day at the zoo with his dad and you think okay, this is interesting. I've introduced a mystery who says Father and Son, why is he sick, but I never really resolved that mystery or never deepen that mystery. So I don't become immersed in a story.


Francisco Mahfuz 24:31

I've seen that type of conflict between you know, your band video and the control video, be simplified, perhaps incorrectly as one is a story the other one isn't. So I think my curiosity would be if the if you had to. Both of them are clearly story, the stories they have the dramatic arc, but one of them is pulling on the heartstrings as the Ben story clearly is and the other one is not How much would that change what the brain does? So if it's just not an emotional story to the way we commonly use the word emotional, would you just get the exact reaction? But not to that level? In? How would that perhaps affect the action afterwards?


Paul Zak 25:18

That's a good question. Yeah. So we've spent, you know, about 15 years setting this. So I have an answer for that. So once once we really understood this, this this band video, and again, there's this kind of key immersion is attention and emotional resonance, you got to have both. And it's, it's continuous, right? But there's a threshold in which you get enough of that, and almost everybody will donate money. So he said, maybe it's just emotional stories. Maybe it's not story. It's just emotions, right? So why don't we isolate that out. So we did a study in which we took 16 public service announcements from Europe, all in English, but we ran this study in the US, and we want to make sure you hadn't seen these ads before. And this is like, you know, heart disease. Some are funny, some are weird. Some of our emotional, they all have little mini narrative arcs. They're mostly 30 seconds long. And in this one, we really want to see like, what what's the the oxytocin component, so we gave people either synthetic oxytocin or placebo to see if we can sort of crank up this emotional response. And sure enough, it didn't matter if the story was funny, sad, happy, a great stories, a great story. And the brain saw that. And then when we get people additional oxytocin, they cared more about the characters, they donated to twice as many of the charities I mean, you know, we could accentuate this response. So it's really that emotional component. So attention gets you in the door, the emotional component, which is what drives the behaviour. So yeah, so funny stories. Great. There was this article in Fast Company A couple years ago called The Rise of advertising about everyone thought, oh, videos, you know, has to be emotional. It's gotta be sad. It's got no actually it doesn't. It's not advertising. It's, it's just a great story. And again, we could tell the evolutionary story on why a narrative arc is effective way to engage the brain. But what we know is that, as you said, we're learning something from story. So if I can put it in that structure, and it's authentic, and that's the hard part. I think, from a storytelling perspective,


Francisco Mahfuz 27:05

there is an interesting question about structure, which is, and this is another debate that goes around in for people that do kind of what I do, which is some people are very much for structure. And, you know, I mentioned to you that recently having the podcast, Brian Harmon, who does a lot of stuff with the story with humour with trust, and he swears by frayed tags triangle, do you know a lot of people love the hero's journey or simplified versions of that, and or they have their own frameworks that they devise. But one thing you said when you were talking about the brain imaging results, is that the brain doesn't follow the structure in a linear fashion. So then attention goes on and off, then you check your environment, and then you pay more attention to the story. So he wasn't okay. So this is rising action, and everything that should be rising rises, and then as a climax, and then everything climaxes and then as things come down, so I think what you said is, the brain does not following the structure in as closely as perhaps we could have hypothesised that it does. So my question there is, do you find that having a very, very set framework or structure for the story makes a massive difference? Or does he just have to touch on the important points of the structure?


Paul Zak 28:26

That is such a deep question, and I want to answer it fully, because I think it's almost the most important question. You can ask about storytelling. So the answer depends on whether you're talking about short term form storytelling or long form storytelling. And it's a function of sadly for listeners, how lazy the brain is. So the brain is really lazy, because it takes about 20% of your calories to run this one organ, three pound organ in your head. And so your brain wants to kind of idle most of the time. So anyway, it's working all the time, but it doesn't really kick in. And let's have a reason. So for short for storytelling, that means to me under a couple of minutes, maybe three minutes, or I'm going to do a single narrative arc, I'm gonna hit you hard. But once we see emotional peaks and the data immersion peaks, we see that the day look more like a sine wave. Once I'm immersed, it's metabolically costly. I'm gonna take a little bit of a breath, right. So from a storytelling perspective, the things I remember most will be at immersion peaks. So I want to structure my story so that that call to action, for example, happens at an immersion peak, not at a trough when I'm taking a little neurologic breather. So that's for short form storytelling. So I'm going to have a couple of sine wave patterns. So roughly follow that vertex triangle. I want to have a peak near the high emotional component. And again, the most important information should be at that peak, right? That's the thing I need you to remember the death of Marley and Marley and Me, okay, I need to remember that that death is there to remind us how precious life is Boom. That's the crux of that movie for longer form, storytelling. It's absolutely exhausting for the brain. If I'm always moving that free time triangle ascent. So in long form storytelling, as you know, we vary storylines. So even in a, you know, 22 minutes sitcom in the US, or a two hour movie, you'll have different storytime lines with different levels of tension. So I can take the first storyline, build up some tension stop, start a new storyline with lower tension, build tension. So when I when I stop and start a new storyline, I get a little neurologic breather that lets me assimilate the information, right, and now I build up tension on storyline number two, and now may take on storyline number three, or I may throw in some comic relief, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, now I get to relax a little bit. And now I'm ready to reengage, right. So it's just exhausting if I'm just completely on edge. Now, it's been done in long form storytelling, there are some some great movies that have done that, generally, it's just overwhelming if you're just constantly so high levels of success movies, sometimes slasher movies, you know that teenagers like sometimes will do that, where you just never get a break. That's kind of an anomalous situation. Normally, we want to modulate that tension. But I think for short, to even medium form storytelling, think about curating that experience, so that the most important points happen at these emotional peaks. And I should say that I've used this word immersion in this neurologic state, most of signwave variation, immersion is due to the emotionality of it. So attention is a kind of a 01 variable and be there paying attention over here or over there, I can't, I can't there's no, there's no multitasking, there's just task switching. So once I've got your attention, I gotta do something with it. I don't want to dissipate that. And I do that by generating some emotional resonance. But I don't want to straight up that's just going to kind of were generally going to wear you out, except for very short form storytelling. So we've had clients use our technology to measure stories that shortest six seconds and we actually get very good resolution, you can tell a six second story just like the famous, maybe apocryphal story about Hemingway telling the six word story that, you know,


Francisco Mahfuz 31:59

for anyone who doesn't know, it's, it's baby shoes for sale, baby shoes, for sale, never gotten. But I was in


Paul Zak 32:07

New Yorker last year talking to VP from a major social media company that you would know. And she said, we want to tell one second stories. I don't think there's a one second story. So I think six seconds to sort of Bumper ads that we see. I think those you can still have a mystery, have a crisis have a resolution. I don't think one second is just that's a cut, right? That says too fast. So I don't think that's a story that's a, you can probably have a mystery.


Francisco Mahfuz 32:33

This is just me that this is the way how my brain works. But I had this thing that happened to me when I was younger, where I was, I was living in London, and I was going to cook curry, I think, and I had my, I had my girlfriend coming over. And I think our parents were in town or something. So I was cooking for them. And and I'm chopping the chilies. And at some point between the chopping and everything else, I think I went to the loo. And I realised that I had washed my hands after going to the bathroom, but not before. And I had been chopping chilies for the last 10 minutes. So you know, it caused an uncomfortable reaction. And as I was trying to placate my feelings of horror and misery, I tried a few things, nothing seemed to work. And what I did find that worked, created a bit of a scene because at some point, my girlfriend came into the kitchen to tell me that her parents were were arriving. And I had my trousers down, and the freezer door open. If you take that cut, there is a story behind that. But But I don't think you can tell the story just with a picture of me half in the freezer with my trousers down.


Paul Zak 33:51

I've done the same thing. Although with


Francisco Mahfuz 33:55

teachers, he was just set up about the about the tension and having different narratives because yeah, 100% You see that in movies all the time. You see that individuals all the time. But as you were talking, I said, you can do that in real life like you. I was just had this image of me coming home and telling my wife that I just had this really difficult conversation with my doctor in the and I stop and I started Oh, but you know what this happened to me in the supermarket. There's a shut up about the supermarket. Tell me about the doctor. You can stop at the moment of tension and move into a different narrative. When it's when it's real life. I don't think when movies Yeah, you definitely can run parallel narratives in books. They do it all the time. It's a tried and tested technique and which also reminds me to ask you, a lot of the stuff I've read from you refers to people watching watching things, you know, videos and things on TV. Do you have Have you ever done anything which with different types of storytelling that wasn't video? So either reading or listening to stories?


Paul Zak 34:56

Yes, a good question. So again, the question is, are constraints of of neuroscience. So we have, we certainly done a lot of work on audio stories. There's a national public radio programme called StoryCorps, in which people come in and tell personal stories, those are wonderful because even though they're edited, and they're not sort of crafted perfectly, people go into a booth, they tell a story. And then the NPR editors edit it. So some are very discursive, some are very wonderful. And were able to discriminate neurologically which ones are highly immersive and motivate action and which ones don't. So that's good. So you will also do is to look at great stories, you might look at bad stories. So that was the point. We've had a client in the movie industry, do table reads for scripts, when people read stories, we've tested that we just don't have quite enough bandwidth in the brain. So we don't actually just it's just a failure of the of the neuroscience technology, we just can't get enough activation. Because even though when you read emotional text, your brain simulates that we just don't, it's not as strongest when someone kind of brings it to you. It's like I do a lot of my reading now using audio books. And gosh, it's nice when you have a professional voice actor who is reading that that book for you, even if it's nonfiction book, you know, there's so much it's beautifully crafted, where if you're reading it to yourself in your head, you're not putting so much emotion into the words, right. So we just have to get enough emotionality out


Francisco Mahfuz 36:17

interesting that the you say the response, at least the response we can measure seems to be, seems to be not high enough for us to measure. Because I would have thought that narrative transportation, well as my experiences that narrative transportation happens for me a lot more easily, for example, with books than with almost anything else, it maybe takes a little bit. But once you're there, then falling back into that world of the book is is a very easy process. And books, I think more than a lot of other medium allows us for, for emotion, you know, you can spend hours and hours, it's the whole summer, the holiday read phenomenon, like you wouldn't go on holiday and you know, watch stuff on Netflix on the beach, although you can. But the notice to the Buddha book, to me this impression is that, once he gets you, it will bring you right in, and then he just is just flipping a switch to come back into the story and not whereas at least that's my experience with with movies or TV shows. don't sink that narrative transportation is as complete. And perhaps that's because of something a lot of your co co creation. Because when you're reading your or even with oral storytelling, your brain is doing a lot of work trying to put the scene together. Whereas when you're watching it, it's it's easier on the brain, you know, this is what they look like this is what the action what is if I'm reading it's okay, well, I don't know what this Balzac fellow looks like. But he says a stall here. Okay, fine. So he's, so now I have to imagine you and that takes a bit of brain space. So I don't know, maybe this


Paul Zak 37:54

Yeah, I think it is more diffused. I totally agree with you. I think it's the reading is much more diffused from a brain perspective, that's it we're seeing are these kind of core components of immersion, because you're doing so much simulation, when you read, we're thinking of movies or TV were lighting, music, all that tells you and foreshadows or tells you how to feel so we we, for example, done many studies where we take out the music of a scene immersion drops, right it's just a it's just a signal that oh, you know that doo doo doo doo. Oh my gosh, something's gonna happen now is that miscarries? So yeah, I think it's, it's just that the technology we have is harder to find that diffuse signal because the brain is in the background doing similar work. So again, 99% of your brain activity is unconscious, we're not aware of it, it's just run in the body. And so to find those that's why it took us so many years to find these the signals associate with immersion to find those signal around all that background noise is hard. And so if I hammer you with a movie with music with I can find that signal but if I just have you simulate this in your head when you're reading a book, it's not that it's not there, it's just it's just hard to find it among the background noise.


Francisco Mahfuz 39:02

Okay, you had talked earlier on about how liking is not a good measurement for for if a story is good or not. And so in your book, I think this is from the moral molecule or might have been from one of the many papers I've read from you in the last few days but you talked about how you guys measured you tried to compare Super Bowl rankings of you know which commercial people liked more from the Super Bowl with your with the zest measurement that you developed and named after yourself as you should


Paul Zak 39:34

yeah, we call immersion that yeah, okay, fine.


Francisco Mahfuz 39:37

zafra so good. This story has oh good yeah. engagements that the


Paul Zak 39:41

statistic Yeah, but that was just to self referential.


Francisco Mahfuz 39:47

Okay, but if I thought it was great to say this story is very nasty or not it doesn't have an obssessed right. So what you what you found is that the commercials people said they liked wasn't what the brain was saying they like But when I was trying to figure this out, right, so, if our impression of a story is not accurate, how can we measure it outside the lab? Now I imagined, I think some of your recent work tackles that, doesn't it?


Paul Zak 40:14

It does. Right. So we create this company immersion neuroscience has created a software platform. So anyone can measure the impact of story by pulling data from a smartwatch from which we can infer what the brains doing. So now we have clients, you know, they can do it themselves. So we democratise neuroscience, great. If you tell our story, or great customer experiences or the effectiveness of training or education that you can measure that refine it, you know, optimise it. Yeah. So when we first I doing this with the Super Bowl work, again, we're back to this question for Cisco about what does impact mean. So for the Super Bowl, we don't know about sales bumps associated with his advertising. So we're going to use proxies for that. So we use things like YouTube views and YouTube comments, some measure that we can pull. I'll talk about sales pumps in a second. And so we this is a, the data I have in my head is from the 20. Actually, I pulled it up because I thought you might ask for the 2018 Super Bowl. So this is $5 million for a 32nd commercial to air it and think about another you know three to 5 million to produce it. So this is some serious money. So we look at these rankings of liking USA Today has done in other other newspapers do we find a negative point three three correlation between liking and YouTube views and a negative point three a correlation between liking and YouTube comments when we look at emergent this neurologic measure views has a point two seven positive point two seven correlation with views and positive point two five correlation with YouTube comments. So whatever emergent measures, it seems to related to engagement impacts, those measures were liking isn't in effect is negative, and suddenly zero is negatively correlated.


Francisco Mahfuz 41:50

I guess one of the easiest answers, which is perhaps wrong is that I'm just thinking about music now. Because just earlier today, I was I was listening to a speaker, I like a lot called Brian Miller. And he talks about human connection, he was talking about how vinyl, he just got given a vinyl player and how you have to give your full attention or, or your intention to the music, because you're not going to keep speakers keeping it. You have no this is it. I mean, I can't keep it, it's a pain in the neck. So I'm going to listen to the whole thing, which is something we used to do. Whereas now it's so easy to move from one thing to the other that we don't, in, perhaps the commercial you like is uneasy commercial to like the same as music and pop music is easier to like then say instrumental music or opera. But once you like opera, it does a lot more for you than they think a pop hate of the week will. So there's just a level of depth of emotion of influence of impact on us to perhaps the commercial about a dog and then the horse. It's cute and yours. It's nice. And if someone asks you, you like it, but he doesn't really do anything for you that is not pulling any heartstrings is not leaving a lasting impression. And that's perhaps what the brain already knows that.


Paul Zak 43:08

Yeah. And the problem is that you know what the answer is, when you're in the focus group, and they go here, here's the dog and the and the horse, what are you? What kind of person are you, you're gonna say, you know, like a commercial with a dog, I mean, or a baby. So, you know, having seen now hundreds and hundreds of commercials, there's so many gratuitous babies and bunnies and and nothing to do with the story. They're just walking through the scene, because that increases their liking rating. So again, if our metric is does it generate an impact, then we really need this classical storytelling, I've got to get you to care about this. I can't just likings okay, it's more important that you care about the narrative. And then I get this monkey see monkey do effect. So we have tested immersion to get sales bump so that this is all public information. So I'm not talking out of turn here. But the global ad agencies BBB do some years ago, what challenged us to predict sales box. So where should we have sales bump data from our clients for commercials that we produce? Because that's the metric that they test us by? And it's a great set aside data. And we'll check those commercials like, let's do it a little harder. How about if we keep the data we'll send you these commercials, I think the census 18 commercials, you measure immersion, and you predict blindly which ones were best in market. So we did for six different brands, big brands, like VSA Bud Light, Guinness beer, and we're not playing with 83% accuracy, we can tell you which which of the three commercials for each of those six brands had the best in market performance. So again, the trick here is that we reverse engineered the identification of these neurologic states. We looked at the neurochemical changes and then the electrical changes associated with that in the brain for people who responded to the message and people who did not. And we just did this over and over and over, as I said, Use drug infusions to turn on these pathways until we really had confidence that in many, many settings, movies, education, advertising, that the signals consistently identified value or at least emotional value in the brain. And when they do, that's when they get action. So again, I'm a boring person, right? So from the, you know, our clients in the, in the movie studio industry, like they just to be boring, they have to sell tickets, they got to get butts in seats, right. And it's great if the movie wins Academy Awards and all that, but ultimately, they got to spend, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars, sometimes they got to get butts in seats. And so that's what we're able to predict not whether someone sitting in a movie theatre with a pencil paper goes, I like the Marlene movie, movie, movie or not like it. What I want to know is as it motivates you to take action is so valuable to your brain that you go holy crap, I'm going to see this movie a second time. Right? And that also is interesting. By the way, can we talk about that for a second? Which is, you know, does this neurologic effect wear off? And it looks like it does it?


Francisco Mahfuz 45:49

Do you? Do you have further research after the Super Bowl experiment? Where liking is again pointing to the wrong thing? Or is that is that almost always the case that whatever people say like in a focus group is not at all what their their brain likes. So almost


Paul Zak 46:06

always we say, yeah, just get liking and just for fun. That's a straw man, right? Just set that up and see if that predicts outcomes versus subversion. So here's a quick example of that. So one of the TV networks is that is a client of ours using our software. And they were doing this dial turn thing like you know, here, there's no shell we might show for the fall season, and turn the dial when you liked it or don't like it. Well, that's just liking this just a mechanical way of doing liking. Yeah. And they said, Well, we like the dial because we get this you know, nice data. Alright, just just run them head to head, have one group watch. First of all, if you're turning the dial, now I'm thinking about the dial. I'm not I'm not immersed in the experience. So it's also weird. And again, if a baby comes on or a puppy doing that, like that kind of person mind. Anyway, we've had zero correlation between the lighting from the dials and immersion. And that's exactly what we expect from the Superbowl data from all the other work. It's a different thing. Right? Right. So


Francisco Mahfuz 46:56

back to if the effect wears off. Yeah, it looks like it doesn't. So


Paul Zak 46:59

Warner Brothers, one of our clients, going to sell public was using our technology to look at syndication. So they, you know, these large studios have big distribution networks, they own libraries of information. So why am I watching The Simpsons for the 5 million time or Seinfeld or friends? So they actually did a study in which they compared individuals watching clips from, I don't know, 50 different shows, and then you in advance identified? Have I seen this show before? How often have I seen it, or I've never seen it before, and in fact, immersion was, on average, significantly higher for shows that you had seen before, then for new shows, why would that be the case? That's weird. I'm gonna guess. Go ahead.


Francisco Mahfuz 47:40

So my guess is for the same reason I kind of mentioned before, which is the reason why I've decided a few years ago, that was my holiday reading is a a fantasy, or science fiction type of series, that is a few books long to me is once you know what the world is, your brain has done most of the work of understanding that world and those characters now is just about the story. Now you just following the story, there is no effort in a way. And you know, I've watched friends and Seinfeld, like hundreds of times, and I've watched every episode to the point that I can probably do the lines before they do them. And it's still a good story that it hasn't stopped because not a mystery. I don't need to oh, what's going to happen now? It doesn't matter. That's not it. So I think that the familiarity of it is already past a certain threshold of effort, where with a completely new show is like I want to start this thing. It's seven seasons long do I I don't have the Brainwave. You know, the the bandwidth for it. Whereas Seinfeld, I can always watch Seinfeld,


Paul Zak 48:43

because you've already built up the knowledge of these characters and their emotional states. And yeah, it doesn't take much effort, which is interesting. I had the same experience. I went through a period where I just read decide to read everything by Dostoevsky for a couple years all I read in The Brothers Karamazov, which is, I don't know, eight 900 pages, like you're so sad when that's over. Because it's like that series, that new series on Netflix to like, oh my god, I just spent three months of my life with these brothers. And in this massive tale, how can my life even go on when I have nobody to


Francisco Mahfuz 49:16

talk to? But that's what those times kudos to you, whoa, maybe you shouldn't, maybe you should read someone else's food over and not those miserable bad times. Right. One thing I've seen you recommend, when it comes to how to do stories, particularly using stories, in in different contexts, like, like a business context, for example, is something that I've recognised myself a long time ago, which is you want to talk about one character or a very reduced the number of characters instead of talking about a group of people or an idea. So can you just talk a bit about that? Why what difference that makes,


Paul Zak 49:57

yeah, this is to kind of empirically just from from Measuring immersion for hundreds and hundreds of stories now that this kind of I call human scale story, which one people or a few few set of people, it looks like the brain immerses more effectively in that, that I when I talk about groups. So we see this for example in, in advertising for charities, I can show you a picture or graph 5000 children a day die of starvation, Africa, or I can show you a picture of one little boy who's starving, but much more effective. That's the scale at which we understand story. Is that kind of human scale. I have a question for you, though, which is, I've always wondered about this authenticity of that. So again, like like the bend story benstead, and yet still an authentic story. It's really bad. But if I have an actor portraying a story in which I, as a viewer know, is fictional. How do I still get that authenticity, which seems to drive much higher immersion?


Francisco Mahfuz 50:53

I think that you not, what you're relating to is not is not the absolute true facts of what happened. You are relating to the truth, you know, to the capital T truth that that story is portraying. So you know, if you make up stuff is one thing, because that would be deceiving the audience. So if I made if I told a story about my kid who had cancer, where I never had a kid who had cancer, then then I'm deceiving the audience. If it's a fictional story, then what we're relating to is not that actors story, or that character's story. I think you're relating the father and son love that you can you can feel we might have felt yourself. So I don't think that's impeded in any way by the fact that it's fiction, which is why fiction can move us as much as if not more than a historical or biographical narrative, but the the truth and the emotion being portrayed in those stories need to be need to feel authentic, that doesn't matter. Someone wrote it, I think you experienced that you think I felt that I don't feel sorry, because this character is talking about his kid with cancer, I feel sorry, because human beings get cancer. And I can relate to that you've just awakened that in me is not the characters themselves, although we know we will feel for the characters. But it's because we can relate to the emotion if you can relate to the emotion. I don't think even if it's a real story, you're still going to struggle to make that connection. So that would be my my feeling of why that why that works.


Paul Zak 52:31

It reminds me of that quote from the in from the hometown in which you live in Barcelona from Pablo Picasso, that art is the lie that reveals the truth. Right? So as long as there's truthfulness to that story, even it's fictional, and you're right, we can we get much more excited by fictional stories generally, are immersed in fictional stories than nonfiction. Yeah, there


Francisco Mahfuz 52:51

was that the line that a lot of people quote all the time, which is don't let the truth get in the way of a good story, which I find it's problematic in the sense that if I'm genuinely telling you something that happened to me, enough, twisted it so much that the people that were there would say, that never happened. That's a problem. I think that if I am generally telling something as a true story, then needs to be true enough to the events. Otherwise, I'm just making fiction out of reality. If I'm telling a fiction, that sure, I can fictionalise events to try and portray a bigger narrative, but I'm not pretending it's real. So now there's this debate going on about the crown, the TV show, because a lot of stuff has been taken complicate a lot of stuff is just not true. And so there's this debate about how explicit they need to be that this is not actually a documentary in any way, in how much it is. And I think as storytellers in the business community, it's very difficult to put our credibility at risk by fictionalising, something that's supposed to happen, opening yourself up for someone saying, well, actually, I was there. And that's not what happened all of a sudden years ago, but I'm just doing this in the, in the, in the surface of a higher truth.


Paul Zak 54:12

Again, I think that's because, you know, one way that to keep the lazy brain immersed is through surprise. So I've been just kind of digging into storytelling by comedians because it's short form storytelling. And there's got to be a twist right there got to be this unexpected results. I think the crowd is doing the same thing where you've got to put these unexpected twist because if it's just a documentary narrative, then at some point you go this is all right, kind of interesting, but there's no like a ha moment. So anyway, I think from a kind of a learning experience, I'd maybe just my own recent obsession, but you know, looking at you know, a three to five minute story by a really well practised comedian is really an effective way to see a setup, see a mystery, build tension, but then do this twist. So the story now reveals Something and is understanding that the story has got to continually surprise us. Or it's going to be difficult to keep me immersed, at least in something more than just, you know, a couple of minutes story, a couple of minutes, I think I can do a straight narrative arc and be done. Otherwise, I've got to understand that if I've exhausted, you neurologically put a twist in there and get me back in that story. Even if it's just a single narrative arc surprise is great. The brain loves surprise loves anticipation.


Francisco Mahfuz 55:25

The last question I have for you is something I know we're not going to be able to cover properly. But I just wanted to give a give a quick take on it. So I understand that you are or we're doing some work with with DARPA, which is the defence Advanced Research Projects Agency for the Pentagon. And I understand that a lot of that was to try and shape the messages that the US military puts out. So to highlight the good stuff they do, and not the stuff that they get a bad rap for. And something I've heard said, by Sean Callahan from anecdote, and he was quoting some research that once a story gets into our brain, even if we're told immediately that it's that is, that is false, it's very difficult to dislodge it. So he used this anecdote of how the term lobbying started. And this was by you know, President of the era Ulysses S. Grant, who supposedly caught when he wanted peace and quiet, he went to the lobby of the Commodore Hotel, in the wall, his there drinking whiskey and smoking cigar, people come up to him and start talking to fame, about politics stuff. And that's supposedly where the term lobbying came from, because it was in the lobby of the criminal hotel in that's not true. That's not why that where the term comes from, it's a British thing. So I would imagine that a lot of that work, that story work that goes into portraying the US military or a new organisation, in perhaps a better light, is you're trying to create a story or find the stories that can beat a previous story. And that's not to the best of my understanding, that is not easy to do. Have you found any any interesting takeaways from that work that could could be applied to other areas where you're trying to fight a previous story? That is not? Hopefully not true. But that puts you in a negative light?


Paul Zak 57:09

Yeah, so it's a very deep question. And I'll just try to cover it briefly. So just the setup is not exactly right. So DARPA did fund some of the early research on this. But by law, the US military can not broadcast to the US population, they can only effectively communicate to people outside the US. So there's no cup of lobbying, hey, we're great. Yes, more money. It's actually illegal since the 1940s. So the goal of that of that work was to create a testbed so that the military could use stories rather than weapons to reduce conflict. So could I actually engage with a village leader in Afghanistan, to help the US military find some bad al Qaeda people, as opposed to come in with guns drawn and say, goddamnit? Tell me where these bad guys are. So to me, that's a very noble cause. And I think we should, you know, it's worth recognising the amount of effort that US military puts into reduce conflict. And so we were very actively involved in that. So I think the question you're asking is about counter messaging, yes. How effectively can we count a message? And you're right? There's a lot of research showing that once you got this story stuck in your head, that it's just easier to reinforce that story. That's the echo chamber and social media, right? I'd like Trump, I hate Trump. I like with the guy in Brazil, I share of ghosts and audio, right. So I like most of the people scenario, and I'm just going to reinforce that narrative, because it's, it's, again, my for my simple brain, it's just easier than taking conflicting evidence and weighing it that takes a lot of energy. So the short answer is, as sometimes it's effectively, it's effective to counter message. And that's particularly when something is acutely happening. There's a crisis, I need to counter message right away. But oftentimes, we find it's better to let those stories die. As you probably know, al Qaeda, ISIS, they have multi billion dollar media systems, they're producing all kinds of media all the time. And they're very, very effective at it. And so most of those the US government absorbs, and as small proportion of population may be affected by them, it's actually better if you try to counter message then you sometimes reinforce that message. So sends a letter just to let things go. And they start with a clean message of your own. That is counter but doesn't reinforce that message. So


Francisco Mahfuz 59:19

don't fight the story, change the story, or start a new story


Paul Zak 59:23

perfectly put. That's I wish I said that in in, though I wait a minute and explain it and you got it perfectly. Yes.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:32

Well in the other thing, which is one of the other reasons why in this particular work that you're referring to, it might be difficult to find the story and you mentioned Trump and he mentioned Bolsonaro. It's easier in a way to be not be the bad guy. But it's easier in a way to use narratives that appeal to some very basic fears we have. Those are much easier, I think to make compelling than the nuanced narrative that fights them. This is perhaps a simple To the effect as well that it's sometimes not easy to counter a simple powerful story because you don't have that in your arsenal, you can just vote, you can't be so free with the truth sometimes that you can make your point. And if you can't, then you just not going to win that battle. So you might as well not fight it,


Paul Zak 1:00:19

and let it go. And but get these books, you know, I think, certainly for Trump, he's really good at putting in books, right? Crooked Hillary, right? That just, it gets into your brain, and you just can't get it out. So, but He does that by repetition. So there's a point in which you know, if I've heard this story, 100 million times, I just can't get it out of my head.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:39

So and I'm not talking about him, I'm just watch half of that Trump and American Dream documentary. And it's very interesting. So Netflix, it is his backstory from when he started appearing on the scene that I'm just at the moment where he's looking like he's gonna go bankrupt for the first time. It's incredible. I mean, you know, the story, you know, most of the points of the story, it still the way they showed tension, and it's working, it's not working, and I was trace Bill Trump Tower, and now he's going to the casinos. It's still very compelling storytelling, even if there is not much of a surprise to it. Although there is the interest factor of seeing someone who's now so public in so much in the public eye 30 years ago, 40 years ago, and trying to spot is it the same character? Is it a different characteristic? Does he talk the same way? But yeah, I think even even when there isn't necessarily surprise, you can still get plenty of tension, and plenty of emotional resonance, at least, if my wife's reaction is anything to go.


Paul Zak 1:01:40

I think we make such an important point, which is that human beings still need to create these stories. So we don't have AI, that's going to create stories for us. Maybe eventually, they will, I think, you know, the goal of technology, that technology we developed is to allow people to get an objective view of how effective a story is, as opposed to Hey, do you like this? You know, I mean, we just, we just don't know. And so what we're seeing people do is create lots of stories, and then use technology to kind of narrow down the ones that are have most impact. But impact means value, right? We do really want the story, we want the story to be great. And it still is humans that have to do that. And so it's it's not technology, replacing human beings, that's humans Plus technology, it's actually making this storytelling process much more effective, faster, so that you don't you know, no one wants to spend all this time and money telling the story that just bombs. You know, it's the worst. Can you imagine, like the I don't know, whatever the Razzies or the you know, these awards are actors and movies, like you spent millions of dollars so much time and energy, like you said, with a new series, no, people put so much effort into this. And it was a total bomb. How can you not know? So we think you know, 80% of movies in Hollywood lose money? How is it possible in 2020, but 1000s and 1000s of years of storytelling, that we don't know that a movie is gonna be bad, let's because we're depending on our failed intuition, our bias, take on liking. And so by removing that we actually give people what they want, which is a better story. I mean, that's, I mean, maybe that's the takeaway for the whole hour we've had here, which is people really want right stories we weren't, it's not going away. As you said, it's part of our evolved brain processes. And so the extent that storytellers can tell great stories, there's always going to be a place for that,


Francisco Mahfuz 1:03:25

well, I think you and I have a very important reason to get better at telling stories. Because, you know, before before all this nonsense started, and once it stops, we actually speak in front of a whole bunch of people. And there's very few things that are more painful than when you tell a story that you think is gonna is going to have an impact and it's going to be funny, and all you get is hundreds of people looking blankly at you at the end. Whatever, whatever we get wherever science and knowledge we can bring to bear so we are not feeling horribly embarrassed in front of hundreds of people. That's always that's always worthwhile.


Paul Zak 1:04:02

But also sometimes it's the audience I remember, as you told me, You're from Brazil a couple of years ago giving to back to back talks I think on the moral molecule book and when was important Legria your hometown and killed evening talk big theatre people laughed at my jokes and it's hard when you're being translated because the timings off a little bit and I literally go the next day to Sao Paulo big theatre sold out nothing. It was cold rainy night, it was the same talk. I mean, you know, I was that was warmed up. It was just didn't work. I don't know, maybe I was bored. But anyway, then I just pivoted into doing that. I just changed the whole talk. I'm like,


Francisco Mahfuz 1:04:35

yeah, the translator stuff is difficult, but you can there's only so many times you can you can watch a joke bombed and then follow that up with really because in English that's really funny. Alright, folks, you kind of everywhere, right? So you're on LinkedIn and you've got you've got the book out, which I mentioned in the beginning. If people want to look more into any of the stuff you Doing this, there's plenty of places they can go. But what would you suggest is the best place to, to go first,


Paul Zak 1:05:06

the easiest is to go to our company website, get immersion.com. And so tonnes of resources there. There's blogs, there's case studies. There's magazine articles. So a lot of the stuff I've written is there. You can also look at me on Google Scholar, if you want to see the scientific publications, tonnes of those are downloadable. Yeah, I said this, the scales have fallen from my eyes. I am a story nerd. I think stories are really the effective way to teach, to influence and to entertain.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:05:34

It has been an absolute pleasure when we are able to travel and you make your way to to Barcelona or Porto Alegre again, I would be I'll be delighted to have you over introduce you to a whole bunch of Brazilians and barbecue for your lovely,


Paul Zak 1:05:48

I'm definitely on my way to Europe. 2021. So I'll let you know I've got to go to Valencia anyway, so that too far from Barcelona, so we're due for a beer.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:05:55

Alright, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.


I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find the show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tap. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



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