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									Jerry Hoeg

                 Why did narrative evolve?
               (human) nature and narrative

   The overwhelming evidence that narrative is hardwired into humans,
evidence we shall review shortly, raises the question of why this is so.
What function, or functions, does narrative perform that it should become
part of our human inheritance? There exist a number of possible answers
to this question. One viewpoint suggests that narrative serves a didactic
role, with narratives serving as models for behavior (Sugiyama; Pinker
Language, Blank). Geoffrey Miller argues it developed through sexual
selection, a way to impress the girl, while Edward O. Wilson argues narra-
tive gives humans the opportunity to test options for dealing with reality
in a sort of mental simulator (225). Joseph Carroll adds our inner reality to
the mix, stating, “We use imaginative models to make sense of the world,
not just to understand it abstractly but to feel and perceive our own place
in it—to see it from the inside out” (xxii). Other contenders are Jerome
H. Barkow’s assertion that telling tales about people, gossip if you will, is
an important means of social control (628), while Robin Dunbar would
call these same stories a form of social grooming at a distance to facilitate
social bonding (220). It is not my purpose here to refute these and other
hypotheses regarding the function of narrative in human culture, nor do I
believe there is one and only one correct reply to this question. Rather, I
wish to offer evidence to support what I believe to be an undeniable func-
tion of narrative in our species, namely, socio-environmental regulation.
And though narrative is traditionally equated with literature, I use the
term narrative here in a more inclusive manner, one which goes beyond
just literature to include all forms of storytelling, be it literature, gossip,
jokes, film, advertising, or any of the other symbolic systems society uses
to disseminate social values, to tell its/our stories.
   I believe that narrative is an adaptation that has evolved by natural selec-
tion as a means to regulate two interrelated social arrangements: the rela-
tions between individuals within a given society, the intrasocial; and the
relations between society and its natural environment, the extrasocial. The
first of these is the traditional fodder of literary theory, which generally
treats intrasocial relations either at the individual level—the emotional

   Studies in the Literary Imagination 42.2, Fall 2009 © Georgia State University
Why Did Narrative 
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