Emotional Selection in Memes: The Case of Urban Legends

From: William Benzon (bbenzon@mindspring.com)
Date: Thu 06 Nov 2003 - 13:52:33 GMT

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    Emotional Selection in Memes: The Case of Urban Legends  

    Chip Heath Graduate School of Business Stanford University  

    Chris Bell and Emily Sternberg Fuqua School of Business Duke University  

        This article explores how much memes like urban legends succeed on the basis of informational selection (i.e., truth or a moral lesson) and emotional selection (i.e., the ability to evoke emotions like anger, fear, or disgust). The article focuses on disgust because its elicitors have been precisely described. In Study 1, with controls for informational factors like truth, people were more willing to pass along stories that elicited stronger disgust. Study 2 randomly sampled legends and created versions that varied in disgust; people preferred to pass along versions that produced the highest level of disgust. Study 3 coded legends for specific story motifs that produce disgust (e.g., ingestion of a contaminated substance) and found that legends that contained more disgust motifs were distributed more widely on urban legend Web sites. The conclusion discusses implications of emotional selection for the social marketplace of ideas.

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

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