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Departmental Colloquium: What fictions do people like at different ages? Predictions from evolutionary developmental psychology

Baumard and Dubourg
Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Narrative fictions (be it in the form of novels, movies, TV series or video games) have surely become the most widespread source of entertainment in the world. Why do humans spend so much time and resources consuming stories that they know to be false? We contend that fiction makers succeed in attracting people's attention by tapping into a myriad of specialized cognitive mechanisms that evolved to solve different adaptive challenges. For instance, humans, being omnivore foragers, evolved to be interested in exploring new environments and discovering new resources. These exploratory preferences can in turn be triggered by fiction makers through for instance the invention of imaginary worlds (i.e. Middle Earth, Hogwart, Hyrule). Importantly, evolutionary developmental psychologists have argued that adaptive challenges are not the same at different life stages. We can therefore derive from evolutionary psychology, and from the idea of evolutionary developmental psychology, a theory of the development of cognitive preferences across ontogeny, and make fine-grained and testable predictions about what fictions toddlers, children, adolescents, young adults and adults should like.