Re: Study shows brain can learn without really trying

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun Nov 25 2001 - 05:25:08 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Study shows brain can learn without really trying
    Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 00:25:08 -0500
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    >From: "Wade T.Smith" <>
    >To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
    >Subject: Re: Study shows brain can learn without really trying
    >Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 18:17:32 -0500
    >Hi Robin Faichney -
    > >repetition of an observed behavioural pattern counts as imitation
    >Yes - "The act, practice, or art of copying the manner or expression of
    >But, can one just repeat an observed behavioral pattern? I do not see it.
    >One requires a skill set of performance standards to even attempt
    >imitating, much less learning a behavior, unless such behavior is within
    >the innate skill set and autonomic, like a panic response or a sneeze or
    >a blink.
    I think drumming and surfing are great ways of exploring these problems. If
    I listen to Neil Peart on a CD or watch him on video I'd like to imitate
    him, repeat the elaborate behavioral patterns of his that I've observed on
    many occasions. Without years of music lessons, learning music theory and
    how to read music I'm not gonna even come close to emulating Peart. I'm even
    orse at playing guitar, so if a friend shows me a ccool guitar trick they
    just picked up on, I'm not going to have much success copying that pattern.

    With the whole surfing subculture I was exposed to in my formative years,
    there were so many trends in clothing and slang that were quite easy to
    imitate. If you were wearing a shirt that put you with the "in crowd", I
    could ask you where to buy one and it would be easy for me to buy the sme
    style and fit in with the clique. But if the clique revolves around a
    difficult activity like surfing, it would be much more difficult for me to
    imitate this. Imitation here would be much more of an active undertaking.
    >And one is not imitating a virus when one sneezes. The virus is
    >using them. It has replicated in a homey stew of mucus and blood, but it
    >is not imitating anything. It don't have observational capacities to know
    >anything is out there to imitate. If I _imitate_ you sneezing, perhaps to
    >make you feel less alone in your malady, it is because I have the ability
    >to produce a mimicked sneeze, but I am not sneezing, and I do not have
    >the virus that made you sneeze. When I do pick it up, being in the same
    >room, it will use me to make sneezes, and I will.
    I can induce a sneeze by placing my upper lip against my nose and humming,
    which irritates my nose. Maybe this versus a viral origin would be how
    different causes can result in a similar effect.

    If cultural effects have a neural basis within individual people, the
    causative neural traces could be quite different but the cultural effects
    quite the same. OTOH similar traces could result in different cultural
    effects depending on the context, like association with other traces.

    If cultural effects have a neural basis, so what? What use is it to reduce
    the effect to *a* trace? What if there's no isomorphism between the traces
    in different people subject to similar cultural effects?

    You sneezed from a virus. I sneezed by intentionally irritating my nose.

    BTW, when reducing the cutural effects to a trace, one encounters the same
    troubles those who have been searching for memory traces (mnemons, engrams,
    or whatever) have. Is renaming the trace going to improve matters any?
    >And I repeat, that _use_ is not imitation. And I am declaring that memes
    >are only cultural artifacts, and can only be used once they are in a
    >shared environment and that imitation (or evolutionary mimicry) is an
    >illusion of similar environmental behavioral responses by similarly
    >adapted organisms. If we have a roomful of people sneezing, they have the
    >same virus. Or there is imitative intent and performance on the part of
    >some. But the virus is not spread by the imitators.
    >I ain't arguing that the above definition is not imitation, but,
    >semantically, my copying a mannerism of yours is not the mannerism
    >itself, it is a simulacrum, an act, an intended behavioral action.
    >Artistically, this could be useful, as on a stage when I need to elicit a
    >certain feeling from an audience- if I use your expression, it may well
    >be that it is common enough to be recognized- a sneeze, for instance,
    >certainly is. The audience will know I am acting the part of a sick
    >person. Representation is the use of an imitation. It is a cornerstone of
    >drama and expression and can lend great meaning. This meaning could then
    >be attempted to be recreated by a member of the audience, in a private or
    >public setting, and if I conveyed enough of the background with the
    >expression, they could imitate it, having the skill set to form the
    >muscles of the face and the strength in the lungs, simple actions, and
    >the experience (although it would not be required) of having sneezed in
    >the past. I did not, and they do not, pass the virus that actually makes
    >people sneeze.
    And the neural cause of a given behavior in you might be quite different
    from the cause of a similar behavior in me. Maybe the cultural effect with
    different causes in each of us itself becomes a causative agent, effectively
    nipping neural memetics in the bud?

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