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Accès libre

Storytelling as Adaptive Collective Sensemaking.

2019-10-01T00:00:00Z, Bietti, Lucas, Tilston, Ottilie, Bangerter, Adrian

Storytelling represents a key element in the creation and propagation of culture. Three main accounts of the adaptive function of storytelling include (a) manipulating the behavior of the audience to enhance the fitness of the narrator, (b) transmitting survival-relevant information while avoiding the costs involved in the first-hand acquisition of that information, and (c) maintaining social bonds or group-level cooperation. We assess the substantial evidence collected in experimental and ethnographic studies for each account. These accounts do not always appeal to the specific features of storytelling above and beyond language use in general. We propose that the specific adaptive value of storytelling lies in making sense of non-routine, uncertain, or novel situations, thereby enabling the collaborative development of previously acquired skills and knowledge, but also promoting social cohesion by strengthening intragroup identity and clarifying intergroup relations.

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Accès libre

Cultural transmission in a food preparation task: The role of interactivity, innovation and storytelling.

, Bietti, Lucas, Bangerter, Adrian, Knutsen, Dominique, Mayor, Eric

Interactive conversation drives the transmission of cultural information in small groups and large networks. In formal (e.g. schools) and informal (e.g. home) learning settings, interactivity does not only allow individuals and groups to faithfully transmit and learn new knowledge and skills, but also to boost cumulative cultural evolution. Here we investigate how interactivity affects performance, teaching, learning, innovation and chosen diffusion mode (e.g. instructional discourse vs. storytelling) of previously acquired information in a transmission chain experiment. In our experiment, participants (n = 288) working in 48 chains with three generations of pairs had to learn and complete a collaborative food preparation task (ravioli-making), and then transmit their experience to a new generation of participants in an interactive and non-interactive condition. Food preparation is a real-world task that it is taught and learned across cultures and transmitted over generations in families and groups. Pairs were defined as teachers or learners depending on their role in the transmission chain. The number of good exemplars of ravioli each pair produced was taken as measurement of performance. Contrary to our expectations, the results did not reveal that (1) performance increased over generations or that (2) interactivity in transmission sessions promoted increased performance. However, the results showed that (3) interactivity promoted the transmission of more information from teachers to learners; (4) increased quantity of information transmission from teachers led to higher performance in learners; (5) higher performance generations introduced more innovations in transmission sessions; (6) learners applied those transmitted innovations to their performance which made them persist over generations; (7) storytelling was specialized for the transmission of non-routine, unexpected information. Our findings offer new insights on how interactivity, innovation and storytelling affect the cultural transmission of complex collaborative tasks.