Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-pftt2 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-22T03:28:24.431Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Imaginary worlds through the evolutionary lens: Ultimate functions, proximate mechanisms, cultural distribution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2022

Edgar Dubourg
Affiliation:
Département d’études Cognitives, Institut Jean Nicod, ENS, EHESS, PSL University, CNRS, Paris 75005, France. edgar.dubourg@gmail.com
Nicolas Baumard
Affiliation:
Département d’études Cognitives, Institut Jean Nicod, ENS, EHESS, PSL University, CNRS, Paris 75005, France. edgar.dubourg@gmail.com

Abstract

We received several commentaries both challenging and supporting our hypothesis. We thank the commentators for their thoughtful contributions, bringing together alternative hypotheses, complementary explanations, and appropriate corrections to our model. Here, we explain further our hypothesis, using more explicitly the framework of evolutionary social sciences. We first explain what we believe is the ultimate function of fiction in general (i.e., entertainment) and how this hypothesis differs from other evolutionary hypotheses put forward by several commentators. We then turn to the proximate features that make imaginary worlds entertaining and, therefore, culturally successful. We finally explore how these insights may explain the distribution of imaginary worlds across time, space, age, and social classes.

Type
Authors' Response
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Anikina, O. V., & Yakimenko, E. V. (2015). Edutainment as a modern technology of education. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 166, 475479. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.12.558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bakerjr, M., & Maner, J. (2008). Risk-taking as a situationally sensitive male mating strategy. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29(6), 391395. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2008.06.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Banerjee, K., Haque, O. S., & Spelke, E. S. (2013). Melting lizards and crying mailboxes: Children's preferential recall of minimally counterintuitive concepts. Cognitive Science, 37(7), 12511289. https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12037.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Barnes, J. L., Bernstein, E., & Bloom, P. (2015). Fact or fiction? Children's preferences for real versus make-believe stories. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 34(3), 243258. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276236614568632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baron-Cohen, S. (2003). The essential difference: The truth about the male and female brain. Basic Books.Google Scholar
Baron-Cohen, S. (2006). The hyper-systemizing, assortative mating theory of autism. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 30(5), 865872. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2006.01.010.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baron-Cohen, S. (2009). Autism: The empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1156(1), 6880. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04467.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barrett, D. (2010). Supernormal stimuli: How primal urges overran their evolutionary purpose (1st ed). W.W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
Baumard, N., & Chevallier, C. (2015). The nature and dynamics of world religions: A life-history approach. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1818), 20151593. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.1593.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baumard, N., Huillery, E., & Zabro, L. (in press). The cultural evolution of love in history. Nature Human Behaviour.Google Scholar
Berlyne, D. E. (1950). Novelty and curiosity as determinants of exploratory behaviour. British Journal of Psychology. General Section, 41(1–2), 6880. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1950.tb00262.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bjorklund, D. F., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2000). Child development and evolutionary psychology. Child Development, 71(6), 16871708. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00258.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Black, J., & Barnes, J. L. (2015). Fiction and social cognition: The effect of viewing award-winning television dramas on theory of mind. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(4), 423429. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bourdieu, P. (1979). La distinction: Critique sociale du jugement. Éditions de Minuit.Google Scholar
Boyer, P. (2001). Religion explained: The evolutionary origins of religious thought. Basic Books.Google Scholar
Boyer, P. (2020). Why divination?: Evolved psychology and strategic interaction in the production of truth. Current Anthropology, 61(1), 100123. https://doi.org/10.1086/706879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Boyer, P., & Ramble, C. (2001). Cognitive templates for religious concepts: Cross-cultural evidence for recall of counter-intuitive representations. Cognitive Science, 25, 535564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Castano, E. (2021). Art films foster theory of mind. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8(1), 119. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-00793-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ciranka, S., & van den Bos, W. (2021). Adolescent risk-taking in the context of exploration and social influence. Developmental Review, 61, 100979. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2021.100979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2013). Evolutionary psychology: New perspectives on cognition and motivation. Annual Review of Psychology, 64(1), 201229. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131628.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Del Giudice, M., Angeleri, R., & Manera, V. (2009). The juvenile transition: A developmental switch point in human life history. Developmental Review, 29(1), 131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2008.09.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dubey, R., & Griffiths, T. L. (2020). Reconciling novelty and complexity through a rational analysis of curiosity. Psychological Review, 127(3), 455476. https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000175.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dubey, R., Griffiths, T. L., & Lombrozo, T. (2020). If it's important, then I am curious: A value intervention to induce curiosity. 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 7.Google Scholar
Dubourg, E., André, J.-B., & Baumard, N. (2021a). L'origine des fictions: L'hypothèse des fonctions évolutionnaires sociales. Fabula, 25.Google Scholar
Dubourg, E., André, J.-B., Baumard, N. (2021b). The evolution of music: One trait, many ultimate-level explanations. Commentary to ‘origins of music in credible signaling’ by Mehr et al. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 44, e98. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X20001156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dubourg, E., & Baumard, N. (in press). Why and how did narrative fictions evolved? Fictions as entertainment technologies. Frontiers in Psychology.Google Scholar
Enquist, M., & Arak, A. (1994). Symmetry, beauty and evolution. Nature, 372(6502), 169172. https://doi.org/10.1038/372169a0.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fitouchi, L., & Singh, M. (2021). Supernatural punishment beliefs as manipulated explanations of misfortune (preprint). PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/vejac.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FitzGibbon, L., Lau, J. K. L., & Murayama, K. (2020). The seductive lure of curiosity: Information as a motivationally salient reward. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 35, 2127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2020.05.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fletcher, G. J. O., Simpson, J. A., Campbell, L., & Overall, N. C. (2015). Pair-bonding, romantic love, and evolution: The curious case of Homo sapiens. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(1), 2036. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614561683.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gangestad, S. W., & Kaplan, H. (2015). Life history theory and evolutionary psychology. In Buss, D. M. & Giudice, M. D. (Eds.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 127). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119125563.evpsych102.Google Scholar
Glocker, M. L., Langleben, D. D., Ruparel, K., Loughead, J. W., Gur, R. C., & Sachser, N. (2009a). Baby schema in infant faces induces cuteness perception and motivation for caretaking in adults. Ethology, 115(3), 257263. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2008.01603.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glocker, M. L., Langleben, D. D., Ruparel, K., Loughead, J. W., Valdez, J. N., Griffin, M. D., … Gur, R. C. (2009b). Baby schema modulates the brain reward system in nulliparous women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(22), 91159119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0811620106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gould, S. J. (2008). A biological homage to mickey mouse. Ecotone, 4(1–2), 333340. https://doi.org/10.1353/ect.2008.0045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greenberg, D. M., Warrier, V., Allison, C., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2018). Testing the empathizing–systemizing theory of sex differences and the extreme male brain theory of autism in half a million people. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(48), 1215212157. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1811032115.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Haggard, P., & Chambon, V. (2012). Sense of agency. Current Biology, 22(10), R390R392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.040.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hamilton, W. D. (1964). The genetical evolution of social behaviour. I. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 7(1), 116. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-5193(64)90038-4.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hill, K. (1993). Life history theory and evolutionary anthropology. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 2(3), 7888. https://doi.org/10.1002/evan.1360020303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hinde, R. A., & Barden, L. A. (1985). The evolution of the teddy bear. Animal Behaviour, 33(4), 13711373. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-3472(85)80205-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaestle, C. F. (1985). The history of literacy and the history of readers. Review of Research in Education, 43, 1153.Google Scholar
Kaplan, H. S., & Gangestad, S. W. (2005). Life history theory and evolutionary psychology. In Buss, D. M. (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 6895). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
Kashdan, T. B., Gallagher, M. W., Silvia, P. J., Winterstein, B. P., Breen, W. E., Terhar, D., & Steger, M. F. (2009). The curiosity and exploration inventory-II: Development, factor structure, and psychometrics. Journal of Research in Personality, 43(6), 987998. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2009.04.011.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kidd, D. C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science (New York, N.Y.), 342(6156), 377380. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1239918.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Krebs, J. R., & Dawkins, R. (1978). Animal signals: Mind reading and manipulation. In Behavioral ecology: An evolutionary approach (pp. 380–402). Blackwell Scientific Publications.Google Scholar
Ling, J., Burton, T. C., Salt, J. L., & Muncer, S. J. (2009). Psychometric analysis of the systemizing quotient (SQ) scale. British Journal of Psychology, 100(3), 539552. https://doi.org/10.1348/000712608X368261.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Litman, J. (2005). Curiosity and the pleasures of learning: Wanting and liking new information. Cognition & Emotion, 19(6), 793814. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930541000101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lorenz, K. Z. (1966). Evolution of ritualization in the biological and cultural spheres. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 251(772), 273284.Google Scholar
Mehr, S. A., Krasnow, M., Bryant, G. A., & Hagen, E. H. (2020). Origins of music in credible signaling (preprint). PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/nrqb3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morin, O., Acerbi, A., & Sobchuk, O. (2019). Why people die in novels: Testing the ordeal simulation hypothesis. Palgrave Communications, 5(1), 62. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0267-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nettle, D. (2005a). The wheel of fire and the mating game: Explaining the origins of tragedy and comedy. Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 3(1), 3956. https://doi.org/10.1556/JCEP.3.2005.1.3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nettle, D. (2005b). Exploring the psychological foundations of drama. In Gottschall, J. & Wilson, D. S. (Eds.), The literary animal: Evolution and the nature of narrative (pp. 56–75). Northwestern University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvw1d5h1.Google Scholar
Norenzayan, A., Atran, S., Faulkner, J., & Schaller, M. (2006). Memory and mystery: The cultural selection of minimally counterintuitive narratives. Cognitive Science, 30(3), 531553. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15516709cog0000_68.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Nyhout, A., & O'Neill, D. K. (2017). Children's enactment of characters' movements: A novel measure of spatial situation model representations and indicator of comprehension. Mind, Brain, and Education, 11(3), 112120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Panero, M. E., Weisberg, D. S., Black, J., Goldstein, T. R., Barnes, J. L., Brownell, H., & Winner, E. (2016). Does reading a single passage of literary fiction really improve theory of mind? An attempt at replication. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(5), e46e54. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000064.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ryan, M. J., Fox, J. H., Wilczynski, W., & Rand, A. S. (1990). Sexual selection for sensory exploitation in the frog Physalaemus pustulosus. Nature, 343(6253), 6667. https://doi.org/10.1038/343066a0.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Scalise Sugiyama, M. (2011). The forager oral tradition and the evolution of prolonged juvenility. Frontiers in Psychology, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00133.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Schofield, R. S. (1973). Dimensions of illiteracy, 1750–1850. Explorations in Economic History, 10(4), 437454. https://doi.org/10.1016/0014-4983(73)90026-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scrivner, C., Johnson, J. A., Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, J., & Clasen, M. (2021). Pandemic practice: Horror fans and morbidly curious individuals are more psychologically resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personality and Individual Differences, 168, 110397. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110397.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Singh, M. (2018). The cultural evolution of shamanism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 41, e66. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X17001893.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Singh, M. (2020). Subjective selection and the evolution of complex culture. 21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Singh, M. (2021). The sympathetic plot, its psychological origins, and implications for the evolution of fiction. Emotion Review, 13(3), 16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Singhal, A. (Ed.) (2004). Entertainment-education and social change: History, research, and practice. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Slingerland, E., Atkinson, Q. D., Ember, C. R., Sheehan, O., Muthukrishna, M., Bulbulia, J., & Gray, R. D. (2020). Coding culture: Challenges and recommendations for comparative cultural databases. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 2, e29. https://doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2020.30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sperber, D., & Hirschfeld, L. A. (2004). The cognitive foundations of cultural stability and diversity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(1), 4046. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2003.11.002.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Spitzer, M., & Kiesel, A. (2021). Curiosity as a Function of Confidence and Importance in Knowing Information (preprint). PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/dzanq.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steinberg, L., Icenogle, G., Shulman, E. P., Breiner, K., Chein, J., Bacchini, D., … Takash, H. M. S. (2018). Around the world, adolescence is a time of heightened sensation seeking and immature self-regulation. Developmental Science, 21(2), e12532. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12532.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Stojic, H., Analytis, P. P., Schulz, E., & Speekenbrink, M. (2020). It's new, but is it good? How generalization and uncertainty guide the exploration of novel options. 35.Google Scholar
Stone, L. (1969). Literacy and education in England 1640–1900. Past and Present, 42(1), 69139. https://doi.org/10.1093/past/42.1.69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stubbersfield, J., & Tehrani, J. (2013). Expect the unexpected? Testing for minimally counterintuitive (MCI) bias in the transmission of contemporary legends: A computational phylogenetic approach. Social Science Computer Review, 31(1), 90102. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439312453567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sugiyama, M. S. (2021). The fiction that fiction is fiction. ASEBL Journal, 15, 812.Google Scholar
Sugiyama, S. (2005). Reverse-engineering narrative. In Gottschall, J. & Wilson, D. S. (Eds.), The literary animal. (pp. 177–196) Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
Taggart, J., Heise, M. J., & Lillard, A. S. (2018). The real thing: Preschoolers prefer actual activities to pretend ones. Developmental Science, 21(3), e12582. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12582.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tinbergen, N. (1969). The study of instinct (1st ed. 2nd impression). Clarendon P.Google Scholar
Veale, J. F., & Williams, M. N. (2017). The psychometric properties of a brief version of the systemizing quotient. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 33(3), 173180. https://doi.org/10.1027/1015-5759/a000283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Veblen, T. (1899). Theory of the leisure class (New ed). Macmillan.Google Scholar
Verpooten, J., & Nelissen, M. (2010). Sensory exploitation and cultural transmission: The late emergence of iconic representations in human evolution. Theory in Biosciences, 129(2–3), 211221. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12064-010-0095-7.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wade, S., & Kidd, C. (2019). The role of prior knowledge and curiosity in learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(4), 13771387. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-019-01598-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wakabayashi, A., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Goldenfeld, N., Delaney, J., Fine, D., … Weil, L. (2006). Development of short forms of the empathy quotient (EQ-short) and the systemizing quotient (SQ-short). Personality and Individual Differences, 41(5), 929940. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2006.03.017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zunshine, L. (2006). Why we read fiction: Theory of mind and the novel. Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar