Game of Thrones and the Evolutionary Significance of Storytelling

Brian Gallagher: In the Game of Thrones series finale, “The Iron Throne,” Tyrion Lannister, known as “The Imp,” renowned for his wit and erudition, gives a speech to the heads of the leading houses of the realm. “What unites people?” he asks. “Armies? Gold? Flags?” He shakes his head. “Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.” Tyrion is quite right. In a 2017 study, researchers wrote, “The universal presence and antiquity of storytelling indicates that it may be an important human adaptation,” one that encouraged group cooperation and made skilled storytellers desirable social partners. The study was led by Daniel Smith and Andrea Bamberg Migliano, anthropologists at University College London. Along with their colleagues, Smith and Migliano analyzed the content and purpose of the stories the Agta people tell.

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