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Paper

Collective narratives catalyse cooperation

MPS-Authors
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Gokhale,  Chaitanya S.
Research Group Evolutionary Theory, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Bulbulia,  Joseph
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Gokhale, C. S., Bulbulia, J., & Frean, M. (2020). Collective narratives catalyse cooperation. SocArXiv. doi:10.31235/osf.io/jnu87.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-741F-5
Abstract
Humans invest in fantastic stories -- mythologies. Recent evolutionary theories suggest that cultural selection may favour moralising stories that motivate prosocial behaviours. A key challenge is to explain the emergence of mythologies that lack explicit moral exemplars or directives. Here, we resolve this puzzle with an evolutionary model in which arbitrary mythologies transform a collection of egoistic individuals into a cooperative. Importantly, in finite populations, reflecting relative to contemporary population sizes of hunter-gatherers, the model is robust to the cognitive costs in adopting fictions. This approach resolves a fundamental problem across the human sciences by explaining the evolution of otherwise puzzling amoral, nonsensical, and fictional narratives as exquisitely functional coordination devices.