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

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Wed Apr 18 2001 - 13:24:02 BST

  • Next message: Vincent Campbell: "RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics"

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics
    Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 13:24:02 +0100
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    >> In order for suicides to be truly contagious one has to surely
    > >> 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"?>

            Sorry, very poor choice of phrase. But I suppose I mean that
    witnessing a suicide on a TV soap, is very different from experiencing
    neglect, or abuse, or clinical depression.

            <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?>
            Well, I don't believe so, certainly not to the extent or with the
    rapidity that the correlative data, that Paul refers to, suggests. Think
    about it anecdotally- when was the last time you witnessed a suicide (or
    murder) on TV and felt compelled to attempt it yourself? That's not how we
    use the media.

    >> If this were true, then by default it should be true of other
    >> behaviours also- murder for example. Yet how many murders do
    >> 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?>
            The point still stands with regard to other forms of media input.
    Social interaction on the other hand- like peer pressure- is something very
    different. After all the outbreak of "contagious" suicide in- where was it-
    Micronesia(?) seems to have had a lot to do with peer pressure.

            <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.>
            Oh yeah, agreed. I've read Paul's interesting piece. I actually
    think my contention was not with Paul's ideas, but the way some on the this
    picked it up rather too loosely.


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