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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2022

Edgar Dubourg
Département d’études Cognitives, Institut Jean Nicod, ENS, EHESS, PSL University, CNRS, Paris 75005, France.
Nicolas Baumard
Département d’études Cognitives, Institut Jean Nicod, ENS, EHESS, PSL University, CNRS, Paris 75005, France.


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.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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