Are Stories A Key To Human Intelligence?

Getty Images In a talk in Pittsburgh in 1997, the late evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould allegedly characterized humans as “the primates who tell stories.” Psychologist Robyn Dawes went much further, suggesting humans are “the primates whose cognitive capacity shuts down in the absence of a story.” To be sure, we love a good story. Research suggests that anecdotes can be as persuasive as hard data, and that jurors are influenced by the quality of the prosecution’s and defense’s “stories” when deciding whether to find a defendant guilty. Even in science, we seek explanations, not mere descriptions; in history, we want a good narrative, not a mere sequence of events. But what’s so great about stories? Are they mere entertainment? Or do they offer something more? In particular, could stories…


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