Surviving on Stories

From the Pleistocene to today’s rare book business, Jennifer Vanderbes’ recent piece in The Atlantic is a pop-sci take on the question whether storytelling is or can be construed as an aspect of human evolution.

Was a tribe with good story-tellers bound to be more successful at surviving and procreating than the one that just had Ol’ Grampa Grunt babbling away at the dinner campfire?

There has been quite some academic work on this topic1, with several interesting hypotheses. Wouldn’t it be great if humanity could thrive better if we were better storytellers? This is an intriguing thought that, if true, would mean that “hard” traits being selected against in the course of evolution could be complemented by one more “soft” trait: The ability to engage others in stories of the past, and the (potential) future.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. A part of me wishes it were true.

  1. cf. Lying Apes ↩︎