Re: Sticky Memes

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Wed 25 Jan 2006 - 02:06:13 GMT

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

    > 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.)

    I think this is slightly complicated by the availability of a niche; a meme could create its own niche (you'll wonder how you ever lived without the X) or fill a hole, or displace a low grade resident. But if there is no niche (I don't care one jot about Xs of any kind) there is no foothold. Maybe we could also talk about 'setting time' to really get stuck (in the sense of epoxy resin)?

    So, 'fitness' x 'niche availability' x 'binding time' ?

    > 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.

    Another analogy would be homeobox genes; and epistasis in general. This means that an allele of one gene is a component in another allele's contribution to fitness. Each gene's product's effectiveness is affected directly by the products of other genes; consider for example protein complexes whose members have to maintain complementary halves of a binding site.

    > 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.

    So maybe less fitness, same availability, greater binding time..?

    > 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.

    This seems to key nicely into our previous discussion about whether the intellectual 'take off' in the very bright child is emergent (pure memetic) or biologically triggered...

    Good god its 2am. Eek.

    Cheers, Chris.


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