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Hunter-Gatherer Storytelling May Have Promoted Cooperation

Friday, December 8, 2017

Storytelling hunter gathererLONDON, ENGLAND—Tales told by traditional storytellers often promoted cooperation and egalitarian values, according to a study conducted by Andrea Migliano of University College London and her colleagues. According to a Seeker report, Migliano and her team visited the Agta people of Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park in the Philippines, and heard Agta elders tell the tales firsthand. “We then decided to test if camps (within the Agta) with good storytellers had increased levels of cooperation, without really expecting to find anything,” Migliano said. “But the effect was still there. Camps with more storytellers were more cooperative. The stories seem to work.” Among other hunter-gatherer groups, the researchers found that 70 percent of the shared stories emphasized social norms and behaviors, and promoted large-scale cooperation. Migliano suggests such storytelling may have strengthened hunter-gatherer groups before organized religion and the fear of supernatural punishment developed in agricultural societies. For more on hunter-gatherers, go to “10,000-Year-Old Turf War.”

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