Drama (on television, film or stage) is the most popular of all modes of fictional cognition. Drama consists of direct representation of a fictional social network in which characters have conflicting desires. It is dominated by two main genres: tragedy, which generally concerns status competition, and comedy, which generally concerns the process of mate selection. I argue that the evolved mind is intrinsically interested in information about the attempts to maximise fitness by individuals in the surrounding group. This is because such information is useful for optimising the individual's own behaviour. In particular, the strategies of others with regard to status attainment and mate selection impinge directly on our fitness and so have strong attention-grabbing power. I argue from analyses of Twelfth Night and Richard III that comedies and tragedies appear well designed to exploit these informational biases of the mind. This may explain the enduring appeal of the genres.
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