New JoM-EMIT paper: "Inferring Potential Memetic Structure..." by Carter Butts and Christin Hilgeman

From: Bruce Edmonds (
Date: Tue 30 Sep 2003 - 12:29:45 GMT

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                Inferring Potential Memetic Structure from
                          Cross-Sectional Data:
               An Application to American Religious Beliefs

                  by Carter Butts and Christin Hilgeman

    The identification and measurement of memes poses a fundamental challenge for research in memetics. Recent methodological developments regarding inference for latent algebraic structure provide a useful tool for inferring potential memetic structure from cross-sectional data. Here, we perform such an analysis on selected items from the 1988 and 1998 General Social Survey religion modules. American religious belief over the period is shown to be stable, with a complex structure which is reducible neither to a set of distinct scales nor to a model of itemwise independence. A decomposition of observed behavioral characters into latent meme-like constructs reveals underlying connections between otherwise disparate items, and demonstrates the presence of several interlocking scale-like structures. Interpretations of the resultant latent structures are provided, and some possible implications for the memetic theory of religion are discussed.

    Keywords: meme theory, microbelief analysis, latent class analysis, religious beliefs

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