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The Cultural Evolution Society's Online Learning Series

The Neverending Story: Cultural Evolution and Narratives

Lecture 5: Fantasy

Why are stories featuring fantastical beasts, monsters and the supernatural universally so culturally successful? This lecture explores the psychological foundations of their appeal and how striking a balance between a few counterintuitive elements with many normal elements is key to their cognitive appeal. In the exercise you will learn how to code a selection of folktales to test some of the predictions of the theory discussed in the lecture.


Slides: (pdf)
  Folktales material (pdf) (docx) (txt)
  Instructions (pdf)
  Work sheet (pdf) (docx)
  Model answer (pdf)

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