Do folk tales (and stories in general) provide insight into the evolution…
Do folk tales (and stories in general) provide insight into the evolution of morality?
Neither rewarded nor penalised
Hamiltonian, not groupish or selfish
Selfish (or less Hamiltonian than hero)
Kin selection: may also be groupish
Group selection: may also be Hamiltonian
Groupish altruism, not nepotistic/Hamiltonian nor selfish
Hamiltonian altruism, not groupish or selfish
'Trickster' as a distinct category?
Possible data sources
ATU folk tales
Searchable online versons?
How to assess behaviour?
Significant character interactions
Save from death
Ready-coded themes in ATU
Need multiple observers
Need variation in intensity (size of gift, etc)
Need masses of data (N=1 per story)
Frequency within story
Do story plots shed light on
mechanisms of human social evolution
Selection for "groupishness"
Neutral/negative towards Hamiltonian behaviour
Supporting anecdotal data
Bible stories: Jesus selfless
Selection for Hamiltonian behaviour
Reward Hamiltonian behaviour
Neutral/negative towards groupishness
Supporting anecdotal data
Stories demonising hard-left villains e.g. communist dystopia
Brave New World
Any less modern examples?
Ancestral reconstruction of folk tales
2016 Little Red Riding Hood
2016 Strong phylo signal in folk tales
Mesoudi, Whiten, Dunbar
2006 Cultural transmission (Chinese whispers) has a social bias
1954 Folk-tale aggression
Abstract: The analysis of the folk-tale data supports the essential features of the theory which was developed to supply insight into the consequences and outcomes of action and behavior in folk tales. The approach-avoidance theory of Miller, restated in terms of Whiting's modification of it for the influence of conflict-produced drives, provides a coherent basis for the explanation of the phenomena of projection and displacement in folk tales
1963 Sociopsychological analysis
... (4) tales have the function of supporting social values, but these values may be those of a social group of any size from a fairly small segment of a community on up.
..In supporting the values of one group, the tale may oppose the values of another, even within a community..
2003 Patterns in folktales
Male characters prize attractiveness, female characters prize wealth/status; both prize kindness
90% protagonists are altruistic towards relatives; Antagonists are more selfish
2013 Patterns in folktales
ATU sample: altruistic tales surprisingly rare but popular. Altruistic tales typically involve supernatural beings not humans, rarely involving relatives, often end badly for the altruist. Conflict with Gottschall? Cross cultural comparison suggests altruistic tales preferred by Eastern European/Baltic than Germanic/Southern European cultures - role of the 'protestant work ethic' i.e. solve your own problems?
Quantitative thematic/character analysis
(e.g. Gottschall et al. 2003)
Phylogenetic analysis of stories
Variations on a single story
Relationships between multiple stories
Thematic analysis (e.g. Gottschall et al. 2003)
but accounting for phylogenetic relationships
Phylo. comparative analysis of
diversity in stories across cultures
E.g. are differing religious, political or normative systems associated with 'favoured' tale types?
Change in emphasis on kin to group altruism over time? Increasing with scale of social complexity?