Re: New Memes Book

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Thu 07 Apr 2005 - 00:38:52 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: New Memes Book"

    Dear Scott,

    >>Now, in a very real sense the rats learned the
    >>> *same* thing, despite the
    >>> fact that the neurological changes in each rat were
    >>> almost certainly
    >>> different.
    > Could they conceptualize the maze or formulate ideas
    > about the maze? I'm the last person who would want to
    > be accused of speciesism, but humans have more
    > cortical and cognitive complexity than rats do I'd
    > assume.

    That depends upon what you mean by 'conceptualize' and 'idea'. ;-) It is important not to fall into false dichotomies about cognition. Even when we talk about human cognition, cognitive skills are amazingly differentiated. The Swiss Army knife metaphor of evolutionary psychology may be a bit strained, but things are not black and white.

    I vaguely recall an experiment that purported to show modus ponens logic in rats, using a complex maze. The rats learned A -> B and then B -> C and showed evidence of knowing A -> C. But, as we know from experiments with humans, that is not enough to show abstract thinking. ;-)

    Rats also exhibit a curious behavior when learning T-mazes. When they reach the cross point of the T, they may stop and look left and right a few times. Even the behaviorists called this "vicarious trial and error."

    Now, if a human did that, we would say that he had two opposing ideas in his head. What do we say about rats?

    You raise some interesting points in your next paragraph. It's not that I don't have some thoughts about them, but there's too much there for me to address here and now.

    > Even though I can empathize with the behaviorist
    > stance, I'm at a loss for Benzon's inversion where the
    > external meme has its phenotype in the individual
    > brain. That's not making sense to me, but I think the
    > whole analogy of genotype/phenotype as carried over
    > into memetics creates conceptual confusions.

    It makes perfect sense to me. What do you want to focus on in the genotype/phenotype analogy? If it is internal vs. external, then the external manifestation corresponds to the phenotype. If it is the process of copying, then the external manifestation corresponds to the genotype. <shrug> I agree with you. Better not use the analogy.



    =============================================================== 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:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu 07 Apr 2005 - 00:56:35 GMT