Re: Memes inside brain

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Sun Oct 07 2001 - 15:35:47 BST

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    From: Bill Spight <>
    Subject: Re: Memes inside brain
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    Dear Robin,

    > I don't have time just now to go looking up refs, but I take it forgranted
    > that the claim that memes are transmitted by imitation amounts to this:
    > Person A performs and person B observes, at some later point B performs
    > and C observes, then C performs and D observes. The meme either "takes"
    > or does not at the time of observation (as a simplifying generalisation).
    > The complete process, from one performance to the next, is considered to
    > be imitation, but only observation (with receptivity) is actually required
    > of the recipient to get the meme from one brain to the next.
    > I'd like to know of any case in which anyone has said "memes are
    > transmitted by imitation" and has meant anything other than this.

    But, in that view, assuming memes reside in the brain, to say that memes
    are imitated is simply to say that they are transmitted. The imitation
    is not the *means* of transmission between A and B, B and C, C and D,
    etc., but the *result* of transmission. Better to say that memes are
    transmitted by observation and learning. This is not just quibbling over

    To say that memes are transmitted by imitation means that B imitates A,
    and that imitation is then reinforced, so that the meme takes, or B's
    behavior is then corrected. I.e., imitation is a form a learning by
    practice. Or it may mean that B observes A and learns what A is doing
    (although memes are not just behaviors) with the intention of imitation.
    That way the original learning is imitative, as opposed to other forms
    of learning. Blackmore makes a point of saying that other forms of
    learning do not tranmit memes, in her view.

    The case I mentioned, where the meme is apparently transmitted with
    neither practice nor the intent to imitate, is problematic for that



    P. S. When I say that memes are not just behaviors, I do not mean
    anything profound. Suppose that you meet someone who greets you with,
    "So long." Something is wrong. The behavior is right: pronunciation,
    intonation, emphasis, emotional tone. But the circumstances are wrong.
    If he is not fooling around, he may have a mental problem. The "So Long"
    meme is not for greetings, but for partings. Memes include not only
    behavior, but the circumstances for that behavior. They have to be
    learned, as well.

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