Can science explain why we tell stories?

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker:

Monkey-readingOf all the indignities visited on the writer’s life these days, none is more undignified than the story or pitch meeting, a ritual to which every writer, from the gazillion-dollar screenwriter to the lowly essayist, will sooner or later submit. “So tell us the story,” the suits say after a few minutes of banter and schmooze, and the writer gulps and jumps in. “Well, uh, it’s sort of, like—it’s sort of a fish out of water story…“and then as one pale incident succeeds the next, the tycoons emit a slow burn of polite disbelief and boredom, ending with a forced smile and a we’ll-get-back-to-you. Sometime. Soon…

And yet something interesting, even encouraging, is revealed in this ritual, all its humiliations aside. Stories, more even than stars or spectacle, are still the currency of life, or commercial entertainment, and look likely to last longer than the euro. There’s no escaping stories, or the pressures to tell them. And so the pathetic story-pitcher turns to pop science—to Jonathan Gottschall’s new book, “The Storytelling Animal,” for instance— for some scientific, or at least speculative, ideas about what makes stories work and why we like them. Gottschall’s encouraging thesis is that human beings are natural storytellers—that they can’t help telling stories, and that they turn things that aren’t really stories into stories because they like narratives so much. Everything—faith, science, love—needs a story for people to find it plausible. No story, no sale.

More here.