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      The evolution of stories: from mimesis to language, from fact to fiction

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      Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science

      John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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          Abstract

          Why a species as successful as Homo sapiens should spend so much time in fiction, in telling one another stories that neither side believes, at first seems an evolutionary riddle. Because of the advantages of tracking and recombining true information, capacities for event comprehension, memory, imagination, and communication evolved in a range of animal species—yet even chimpanzees cannot communicate beyond the here and now. By Homo erectus, our forebears had reached an increasing dependence on one another, not least in sharing information in mimetic, prelinguistic ways. As Daniel Dor shows, the pressure to pool ever more information, even beyond currently shared experience, led to the invention of language. Language in turn swiftly unlocked efficient forms of narrative, allowing early humans to learn much more about their kind than they could experience at first hand, so that they could cooperate and compete better through understanding one another more fully. This changed the payoff of sociality for individuals and groups. But true narrative was still limited to what had already happened. Once the strong existing predisposition to play combined with existing capacities for event comprehension, memory, imagination, language, and narrative, we could begin to invent fiction, and to explore the full range of human possibilities in concentrated, engaging, memorable forms. First language, then narrative, then fiction, created niches that altered selection pressures, and made us ever more deeply dependent on knowing more about our kind and our risks and opportunities than we could discover through direct experience. WIREs Cogn Sci 2018, 9:e1444. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1444

          This article is categorized under:

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            Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition

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            Linguistics > Evolution of Language

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            Neuroscience > Cognition

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          Most cited references 149

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          Temporal construal.

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            Remembering the past to imagine the future: the prospective brain.

            A rapidly growing number of recent studies show that imagining the future depends on much of the same neural machinery that is needed for remembering the past. These findings have led to the concept of the prospective brain; an idea that a crucial function of the brain is to use stored information to imagine, simulate and predict possible future events. We suggest that processes such as memory can be productively re-conceptualized in light of this idea.
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              A default mode of brain function.

              A baseline or control state is fundamental to the understanding of most complex systems. Defining a baseline state in the human brain, arguably our most complex system, poses a particular challenge. Many suspect that left unconstrained, its activity will vary unpredictably. Despite this prediction we identify a baseline state of the normal adult human brain in terms of the brain oxygen extraction fraction or OEF. The OEF is defined as the ratio of oxygen used by the brain to oxygen delivered by flowing blood and is remarkably uniform in the awake but resting state (e.g., lying quietly with eyes closed). Local deviations in the OEF represent the physiological basis of signals of changes in neuronal activity obtained with functional MRI during a wide variety of human behaviors. We used quantitative metabolic and circulatory measurements from positron-emission tomography to obtain the OEF regionally throughout the brain. Areas of activation were conspicuous by their absence. All significant deviations from the mean hemisphere OEF were increases, signifying deactivations, and resided almost exclusively in the visual system. Defining the baseline state of an area in this manner attaches meaning to a group of areas that consistently exhibit decreases from this baseline, during a wide variety of goal-directed behaviors monitored with positron-emission tomography and functional MRI. These decreases suggest the existence of an organized, baseline default mode of brain function that is suspended during specific goal-directed behaviors.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz
                Journal
                Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci
                Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci
                10.1002/(ISSN)1939-5086
                WCS
                Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Cognitive Science
                John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Hoboken, USA )
                1939-5078
                1939-5086
                24 May 2017
                Jan-Feb 2018
                : 9
                : 1 ( doiID: 10.1002/wcs.2018.9.issue-1 )
                Affiliations
                [ 1 ] English, Drama, and Writing Studies University of Auckland Auckland New Zealand
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: b.boyd@ 123456auckland.ac.nz
                Article
                WCS1444
                10.1002/wcs.1444
                5763351
                28544658
                © 2017 The Author. WIREs Cognitive Science published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Pages: 16, Words: 13130
                Product
                Categories
                Evolutionary Roots of Cognition
                Evolution of Language
                Cognition
                Advanced Review
                Advanced Reviews
                Custom metadata
                2.0
                wcs1444
                wcs1444-hdr-0001
                January/February 2018
                Converter:WILEY_ML3GV2_TO_NLMPMC version:5.2.8 mode:remove_FC converted:11.01.2018

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