Re: [Bulk] Re: Sticky Memes

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 25 Jan 2006 - 00:17:20 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "RE: Sticky Memes"

    At 08:56 PM 1/24/2006 +0000, you wrote:
    >OK, I'm having another shot at replying because I think I have a better
    >handle on what's going on now. See what you think.


    >Here is a possible explanation for all this, which has the virtue of being
    >very simple in memetic terms. Are the stickiest memes simply those which
    >do not have any competitors?
    >(By "stickiest" here I mean the ones with the most lasting impact on our
    >behaviour and beliefs, rather than just best-remembered ones.)

    If we are referring largely to religious memes, then I don't think so. The characteristic of a religious meme is not that it is useful except as a blocker for thoughts (such as those about mortality) that are not useful thoughts in the normal course of everyday life. I have argued that one of them is about as good as another and the process of changing from one to another is not survival enhancing. (Rather, was not in the past, who knows about the present, but leaving a religious group may cost you much of your social support.)

    >So when you live in a community that is closed with respect to a given
    >meme or meme-set, the primary allele (i.e. the one you get first) will be
    >immensely sticky because there's no competition. And if you go for long
    >enough without being exposed to the alternatives then you will have become
    >more and more attached to that primary allele and will put up strong
    >emotional resistance to any alternatives that you do encounter later. Or
    >to put it another (and compatible) way the primary allele will have become
    >so firmly embedded in your existing set of memes that it will be immensely
    >resistant to competition.

    "ROM" like. But I think the resistance is more due to the characteristic of the "religious meme receptor site," and their function of blocking or diverting otherwise harmful thoughts.

    >Natural language, as you say, does seem to be the stickiest of all.
    >Perhaps because language is (necessarily - it being about being able to
    >communicate with each other) the respect in which communities tend to be
    >the most closed of all.

    Language is different in that we go through a stage as children where we are programmed by genes that have bult brain structures to pick up the language we hear. It too fits into a special place, in this case a *known* place, in the brain. Beyond a certain age the program shuts off and learning another becomes very difficult.

    >This explanation seems also to work for languages of all kinds, and for
    >parental attitudes and beliefs - including Santa, because although
    >children can suss the ontology for themselves, the related behaviour turns
    >out to be much stickier in a society that is essentially closed to its alleles.
    >And then the point from Jessner's paper, above, kicks in because as soon
    >as you do encounter alleles you begin to metarepresent - to reflect on the
    >similarities, choose between them, look for further alternatives, etc.
    >Having encountered one allele you become more open to others: it opens
    >your mind to the fact that there could *be* alternatives. It opens the
    >doors to competition.

    Google meta-meme.

    Keith Henson

    >What d'you reckon?

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