When you read or watch something, you may be doing more than just learning or entertaining yourself. You may also be changing your brain chemistry.
I recently saw this fascinating little video clip of a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) researcher who was at the Future of Storytelling conference last week. William Casebeer has studied how stories influence thoughts, behavior, and neurochemistry, according to his bio.
In this clip he talks about how a story following the classic story arc of rising and falling action causes the brain to release oxytocin and cortisol, and that the levels of those neurochemicals can predict empathetic actions like giving money to charity.