RE: Social Norms and Memetics

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Thu 20 Mar 2003 - 11:52:01 GMT

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    Welcome to the list, and good question I think.

            <My question for the list (and I hope it is relevant) is this: can memetics play any part in explaining why these norms should arise in different societies as they have? Perhaps it would be useful to take the example of murder for fun as the norm that is prevalent in many societies, though I am sure there are others that may be more suitable (after all, I am just an undergraduate trying to make sense of both sociology and memetics!).>

            There is no need for a universal norm, if such things exist (the taboo on sex with children would be one strong contender), to have come from a God or anything like that. Fundamental norms, I would argue are essentially reflect the long term rejection of non-adaptive strategies. That would be an evolutionary psychology approach I suppose. Many specific cultural norms have their roots in social hierarchies- people with high status set trends of behaviour to try and maintain their status, people with low status comply with that behaviour to try and improve their status. Since humans are fundamentally the same the world over (biologically speaking I mean), it is no surprise to see some behaviours spontaneously emerging in lots of different places and lots of different times.

            Whether memetics adds to this a mechanism for transmission of cultural traits across communities/societies is indeed a question.


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