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Cooperation and the evolution of hunter-gatherer storytelling

Smith, D; Schlaepfer, P; Major, K; Dyble, M; Page, AE; Thompson, J; Chaudhary, N; ... Migliano, AB; + view all (2017) Cooperation and the evolution of hunter-gatherer storytelling. Nature Communications , 8 (1853) 10.1038/s41467-017-02036-8. Green open access

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Abstract

Storytelling is a human universal. From gathering around the camp-fire telling tales of ancestors to watching the latest television box-set, humans are inveterate producers and consumers of stories. Despite its ubiquity, little attention has been given to understanding the function and evolution of storytelling. Here we explore the impact of storytelling on hunter-gatherer cooperative behaviour and the individual-level fitness benefits to being a skilled storyteller. Stories told by the Agta, a Filipino hunter-gatherer population, convey messages relevant to coordinating behaviour in a foraging ecology, such as cooperation, sex equality and egalitarianism. These themes are present in narratives from other foraging societies. We also show that the presence of good storytellers is associated with increased cooperation. In return, skilled storytellers are preferred social partners and have greater reproductive success, providing a pathway by which group-beneficial behaviours, such as storytelling, can evolve via individual-level selection. We conclude that one of the adaptive functions of storytelling among hunter gatherers may be to organise cooperation.

Type: Article
Title: Cooperation and the evolution of hunter-gatherer storytelling
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02036-8
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-02036-8
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commonslicense, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’sCreative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, SUPERNATURAL PUNISHMENT, STRONG RECIPROCITY, JU/HOANSI-BUSHMEN, LITERARY FICTION, COMMUNICATION, FOOD, SIMULATION, SOCIALITY, EXPANSION, ALTRUISM
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10040816
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