The Storytelling Animal asks the question, "why are people programmed to love stories" and gives a highly credible answer. In short? Just like the opposable thumb, the ability to understand, create and share stories is an evolutionary advantage. There are a few reasons why this could be true. Stories are:
1. A low-cost method of storing and transmitting information. That's handy when you're trying to survive for thousands of years without pencil and paper to capture lessons learned.
2. Just like a peacock's tail is a reflection of its health and strength -- and so proof of suitability as a mate -- stories are a way of showing off cognitive and memory capabilities. In other words, storytellers are hot and as a result had more children.
3. Simulators for managing future social interactions. Cooperation and competition have been the two models humanity has used to advance itself, and those that could both better increased their chances of surviving and passing on their genes. This also explains why the heart of story is conflict and why children's imaginations and animal's dreams are filled with fights and chases.
The author, Jonathan Gottschall, does a great job of revelaing how much of our daily lives are consumed by story. Sure, we all know TV shows, commercials and books rely on narrative. But so too daydreams (2,000 a day!), night dreams (which almost always have a story like structure) and coverage of the news, politics and sports. Story really is everywhere.
Our brains's strong desire to find patterns and meaning in everything also has side effects. Conspiracy theories, which always offer simple reasons and good versus evil structures, are one. The desire to see oneself as a heroic protagonist also leads individuals to misremember past events. This even happens on the nation level, where countries have their own creation myths that skip over the bad stuff.
The Storytelling Animal is a terrific read. I highly recommended to marketers, futurists...come to think of it, everyone should read this.