Excerpt from How the Mind Works by Pinker, Steven (Book – 1999)
The intrigues of people in conflict can multiply out in so many ways that no one could possibly play out the consequences of all courses of action in the mind’s eye. Fictional narratives supply us with a mental catalogue of the fatal conundrums we might face someday and the outcomes of strategies we could deploy in them. What are the options if I married my mother? If my hapless brother got no respect in the family, are there circumstances that might lead him to betray me? What’s the worst that could happen if I were seduced by a client while my wife and daughter were away for the weekend? What’s the worst that could happen if I had an affair to spice up my boring life as the wife of a country doctor? How can I avoid a suicidal confrontation with raiders who want my land today without looking like a coward and thereby ceding it to them tomorrow? The answers are to be found in any bookstore or video shop. The cliché that life imitates art is true because the function of some kinds of art is for life to imitate it.