Is storytelling a biological adaptation? : Preliminary thoughts on how to pose that question

Verbal storytelling – in a sense broad enough to include all forms from casual conversation across oral folklore to written literature – seems to be a universal human activity and has thus been considered an evolutionary
Verbal storytelling – in a sense broad enough to include all forms from casual conversation across oral folklore to written literature – seems to be a universal human activity and has thus been considered an evolutionary adaptation several times in the past few years. The fact that a particular trait is a species-wide universal, however, does not automatically make it an adaptation; it could also be a contingent universal, that is, a cultural behavior which notably relies on biological substrates and therefore emerges in similar fashions in all human cultures, times, and milieus. Yet verbal storytelling is not only universal but also distinct to our species. The uniqueness of a trait can indeed be indicative of a biological adaptation1 in that we have reason to assume that this trait emerged newly in the given animal lineage and thus might owe its existence to the process of natural selection. However, since verbal storytelling completely depends on language, that is, another uniquely human faculty, the uniqueness of storytelling is hardly surprising and cannot serve as a conclusive argument for considering storytelling itself to be a specifically selected trait. Storytelling could simply be a particular use of language (though we shall see below that the relationship between language and narration is a little more complicated). A third possible indication of a biological adaptation, however, is the fact that storytelling seems to be a notably self-rewarding activity. It occurs on a much larger scale than would seem justified by rational choice or other reasons. As fitness-enhancing behaviors should, as a rule, be intrinsically motivated under certain conditions, the unusually high frequency of storytelling might indeed be revealing of an innate preference for this behavior.
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Metadaten
Author:Katja Mellmann
URN:urn:nbn:de:hebis:30:3-380246
URL:https://www.academia.edu/899235/
ISBN:978-3-11-026859-1
Parent Title (English):Telling Stories : literature and evolution = Geschichten erzählen
Publisher:De Gruyter
Place of publication:Berlin ; Boston, Mass.
Editor:Dirk Vanderbeke, Carsten Gansel
Document Type:Part of a Book
Language:English
Date of Publication (online):2015/09/10
Year of first Publication:2012
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2015/09/10
SWD-Keyword:Erzählen; Evolutionspsychologie; Kulturelle Evolution
Pagenumber:20
First Page:30
Last Page:49
Dewey Decimal Classification:800 Literatur und Rhetorik
Sammlungen:CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
BDSL-Classification:BDSL-Klassifikation: 03.00.00 Literaturwissenschaft > 03.06.00 Literaturtheorie
BDSL-Klassifikation: 03.00.00 Literaturwissenschaft > 03.04.00 Methodik
Licence (German):License Logo Veröffentlichungsvertrag für Publikationen

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