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

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Tue Apr 17 2001 - 16:47:13 BST

  • Next message: J. R. Molloy: "Re: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics"

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    Subject: Re: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics
    Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 08:47:13 -0700
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    From: "Vincent Campbell" <>
    > Kids commit suicide for the same reasons other people do- severe depression,
    > usually as a result of severe personal trauma (bereavement, abuse) and/or
    > psychological disorders like depression. With kids there's the added
    > problem that many of them are not in any position to do anything about the
    > situation that is leading them to their state of mind (e.g. kids being
    > abused by parents).

    Well, that just begs the question: Is depression contagious? (And is
    depression more prevalent among high IQ kids?)

    > In order for suicides to be truly contagious one has to surely demonstrate
    > that the conditions which conventionally lead to suicidal tendencies are
    > what are being transferred. I don't see any evidence of that.

    What do you mean by "conditions"?

    > What may happen, in apparent contagion cases, however, is that suicidal
    > people may have their thoughts legitimated by hearing about another suicide,
    > but what won't happen is that a non-suicidal (or near suicidal person) will
    > hear of a suicide and then go and commit it themselves.

    Can a non-suicidal (or near suicidal) person hear of a suicide and then go and
    feel depressed? Can this depression resonate with other feelings or lie
    dormant until it reaches critical mass?

    > If this were true, then by default it should be true of other extreme
    > behaviours also- murder for example. Yet how many murders do people
    > hear/read/see through the media relative to the number they actually commit?

    Reading is only one form of memetic input. How about music, peer pressure, and
    other vectors?

    > If that souns ludicrous, that's because it is. The psychological state of
    > suicide (or other states that relate to extreme behaviours) is (are) not
    > contagious, IMHO.

    Here's the way Marsden put it:
    "This paper presents one vision of memetics, as an integrated part of applied
    social science investigating substantive issues of human experience.
    Understanding memetics as contagion psychology, using selectionist thinking to
    inform interpretation, is certainly not the only way to conceptualise the
    nascent discipline, but it is hoped that it is one that will allow memetics,
    after a quarter of a century of discussion, to start providing useful insight
    into real-world issues and problems."

    Opinion aside, I think it worthwhile to study the matter further.

    --J. R.

    Useless hypotheses:
     consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
    analog computing, cultural relativism

         Everything that can happen has already happened, not just once,
         but an infinite number of times, and will continue to do so forever.
         (Everything that can happen = more than anyone can imagine.)

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