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Hunter-Gatherers Value Storytelling Over Hunting Skills

The Agta hunter gatherers value storytelling over hunting skills
Members of the Agta hunter-gatherer society in the Philippines

I recently stumbled across a study that was done on the role of storytelling in a hunter-gatherer community in the Philippines.

The researchers found that the presence of talented storytellers was associated with greater cooperation amongst tribe members.

Storytelling seemed to set expectations of how everybody was supposed to act, which resulted in more cooperation.

Seems reasonable, if not obvious…

But then the researchers did something clever: they asked tribe members who they’d most like to live with.

Those viewed as skilled storytellers were twice as likely to be nominated than their less-skilled counterparts.

Storytelling ability was more predictive than fishing & hunting skills, medicinal knowledge, and reputation & status.

…the Agta prefer to live in camps with skilled storytellers, who are even more valued than good foragers.

So even in a primitive culture where a hard skill like hunting might seem more important, a “soft skill” like storytelling was valued more.

Do with this information what you will, but I feel like it contains some wisdom for those of us encouraged to specialize and focus on “hard skills.”

Why not also become a great storyteller?


This post was first sent in a Stew’s Letter, a weekly-ish email for ambitious, curious people. You can join below:

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