Re: Experience and Memes

Robert G. Grimes (
Tue, 15 Jul 1997 13:17:31 -0400

Date: Tue, 15 Jul 1997 13:17:31 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: Experience and Memes

Reposted (Spelled correction, sorry the first one got away!)
Mark Mills wrote:
> Consider mastering the piano. Reading a manual on playing the piano does little good. Instead, the player must practice daily for years to master the skill. Once mastered, the skill decays without continuing practice. Without continually experiencing the act of playing the piano, mastery fades away.
> I propose we call this a 'piano playing' meme-complex. The broad range of practice experience is woven into the meme-complex. One can see this as a collection of cause and effect connections that tune the body for precise action. Teaching is a matter of proposing a discipline of practice.
> Off the top of my head, I see three broad sets of memes here. Finger movements for striking piano keys represent one set of memes. A second set of memes control eye movements for translating musical notation into finger movement requests. A third involves listening to the results of finger motion and evaluating the product. By practicing constantly, the meme complex reaches a state of mastery.
> Where do these memes come from?

Mark is certainly using "meme" closely akin to the French root "memory;"
however, I would respectively direct him to many old studies done on
memory in which almost everyone has concluded that there exists a
physical memory for each sense, i.e., tactile, visual, auditory,
olfactory, *deep muscle response*, *associative or relational*, etc.
Piano playing is generally expressed best by comparing those with good
deep muscle response memory and recall, i.e., riding a bicycle, athletic
maneuvers, etc.; good auditory memory and recall (on recall aural memory
is "heard"), good eye/hand coordination (associative, translating
reading musical notes into respective "fingering" of keys), and the use
of "feedback" during the entire process, i.e., almost subliminal
"listening to the reproduced sound and "contouring" the reproduction, in
a real-time process, to "sound like" the auditory recall and committing
the whole resultant configuration to new memory.

Thus, an excellent pianist would have good memory and good recall
abilities in each of these categories (good relating to percent of
recall with 100% equating to the equivalent of "seeing, hearing,
smelling, feeling" being reproduced to such a degree that they
experience the original "memory" similar to a controlled hallucination.
Most of us do not have total recall of any of these memories but when in
the presence of those who do are awed by their ability. When writing a
paper as a young student, fifty years ago, I tested different subjects
on their individual memory abilities and remember the distinct
involved, i.e., those with close to 100 percent visual recall would
frequently almost squint at an area a short distance from their eyes and
the observer "realized" they were "looking" at a recalled memory. I
tested some people who actually read from previous studied texts in this
manner (frequently I found near-sightedness associated with these
subjects as if the "viewing of visual memories" had created an
interesting "focal point" reflex that conflicted with their normal
vision). One subject, an accomplished "by ear" pianist (actually, he
could play almost any instrument in an acceptable fashion compared to
others) would also appear to "listen," after someone had whistled a
tune, and would reproduce the tune almost instantaneously, making "real
time" corrections as the process continued, etc., demonstrating the
coordination of these memory, recall, effectors-reproduction, etc.,

My point is that older research in memory has already explained the
relation between activities, retention and degree of recall and the
ability to reproduce learned activities. Performance being associated
with the efficacy of retention, recall, coordination and duplication of
the recalled sensations by the subject.

The relationship to the meme construct, in my opinion, would be the
subsequent and apparently "learned" perceptions associated with
experiential activities of the organism and the subsequent reproduction
(meme replication) that occurs. The meme consisting of the discrete
perceived or learned material within the cognitive milieu (determined
individually, primarily by genetic evolution), the total of which may
"resonate" (perhaps stimulating neurotransmitters, etc.) in that milieu
and, thus, encourage, reproduction of the discrete meme construct again
(propagation). Inborn tendencies toward certain memetic traits would be
akin to genetic attributes reflecting susceptibility or resistance to
disease, affector/effector coordinative efficiency, etc.

One of our problems appears to be the comparison between "meme
replication" and DNA replication (and subsequent protein manufacture,
etc.) where the organic materials actually replicate but the meme
products actually "reproduce in another subject" extremely "hi-fidelity"
reproductions of meme constructs but which, a priori, cannot be as close
to "identical" as organic products of fission, sexual reproduction, or
crystaline or molecular matching and reproduction.

My contention, all along, has been that there is no physical
justification for "true replication" but only "effective replication"
which, in this unique world, is about the best we can get. This would
not appear to be any problem with the memetic theory unless some of us
are simply riveted to the concept of "true replication" because of our
genetic analogy (which I would also assert is not true replication but
actually very, very high fidelity copying).

Thanks for listening to my interruption...


Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

=============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: