Re: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics

From: Kenneth Van Oost (
Date: Sat Apr 14 2001 - 20:45:19 BST

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    Subject: Re: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics
    Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001 21:45:19 +0200
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    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Wade T.Smith <>
    To: memetics list <>
    Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2001 7:39 PM
    Subject: Re: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics
    > On 04/12/01 13:24, J. R. Molloy said this-
    > >The phenomenon of suicide contagion is demonstrated
    > >experimentally.
    > >From my reading of this paper, it is not suicide contagion that is
    > demonstrated (what a debacle of ethical research _that_ would be!!), but
    > _the perception of suicidal tendencies_ that is being experimented upon
    > and demonstrated herein.
    > In short, an example of intentionally primed observation, long known
    > among magicians and conmen. This is a well-known effectual tool.

    << I am not gonna argue the basic arguments of this post, but I would like
    to comment on the paper written by Paul Marsden.
    My " experience " with suicide / suicide contaigon leaves me to think that
    suicide contaigon is indeed a fact, but more in the way of " association ".
    Memes of suicide / suicide contaigon are like TJ Olney describes in his
    " An alternative approach to Gender and Consumer Behavior: Memetics "
    more or less the expressions of relationships between two or more memes.

    I have long wondered why young children ( between 11 and 16) committed
    suicide. At first glance there was no reason, but after more investigations
    and after a lot of reading I am almost convinced of the fact that two set
    of memes are playing an important role.
    The first set is the memes already held by the kid. Those are those of the
    parents (genetically !?), of teachers, of family, friends. The last category
    due to some research perhaps the most important of all. Many people
    believe that they themselves raise their kids where in fact their friends

    You can easily foresee the importance of that fact :- suicide/ suicide con-
    taigon- meme transmission is more substantial between friends that it were
    to be between child and parents. Exceptions to the rule.....fill in the

    The second set of memes are those which the kid acquires. Those are
    propagated by the media, friends, by teaching, by learning etc.
    When those two set of memes come together and do form as an example
    a contradiction, a contrast, an opposition in the kids mind, the child could
    commit suicide or does try to.
    Of course, this is a very simple explanation and most of the cases are not
    like that at all.
    IMO, a third set of memes plays along the first two.

    In memetic theory is common to say that some memes which are succes-
    ful are not to be beneficial to their hosts. It is IMO that third set where
    must concentrate ourselves onto.
    Not only those sets of memes can easily be succesfully copied but along-
    side with their propagation-method they speed up their propagation- rate
    also. It is there where we have to look for the reasons why kids commit
    You can see this as an Evangelism- Meme as TJ Olney calls them.
    It is in fact the meme or parts of itself which are convincing people/ kids
    to commit suicide. And IMO, they do that faster and faster due to their
    possibilities of transmission and in some way the meme makes herself
    more important so that kids tell other kids about her.
    The suicide of young rockstars, actors, etc are " convincing strategies ".

    On an evolutionary basis, we could put this in some kind of diagram I
    suppose where suicidal tendencies/ reasons were connected with the
    possibilites of suicide meme- transmission.
    Along side this, the possibility also exists that crisisses or the severity
    of the
    crisis plays a major part. As were the former of social stresses were in
    the early days none to zero the latter shows that nowadays those are
    extremely high.
    An new form in which the suicide meme or the suicide contaigon- meme
    would express herself would be as suicidal depression, where the fact
    of social stresses is spirit away by the succesful generation of other meme-
    sets. One of those is the " positive " tendency to work hard(er) at school
    would mean a carrier- breaktrough later.
    Another example is the " positive " tendency that both parents have to
    work to stand up to their social status, which in turn is again a
    of social/ cultural/ fiancial/ commercial stresses/ memes.

    The bias where I work with to understand this all, is by Van Heeringen,
    a Dutch professor who works in the Academic Clinic, Ghent.
    I suppose he has a webside...



    ( I am, because we are) like virusses

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