Re: Emotional Contagion and the Memetic Stance

Robert G. Grimes (grimes@fcol.com)
Tue, 01 Sep 1998 15:44:24 -0400

Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998 15:44:24 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <grimes@fcol.com>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: Emotional Contagion and the Memetic Stance

This is an interesting thread and stimulating. However, is the behavioral
definition limited to completely external manifestations? When ones whole
organism responds to external stimuli, including all of the myriad of variables
we have previously mentioned, one would certainly consider "thinking" as
behavior, too, whether it took the form of demonstrations of vocal response,
limb movements, flinching, flushing (blushing), etc., or was substantially
"covert" to the observer.

Man obviously is his behavior but we have to consider the various levels of
these things periodically to make sure that we do not have the map confused with
the territory. I get into this argument all of the time with folks who do not
consider "thinking" as an "organic, physical process" but somehow presume it is
ethereal, etc., and then fail to consider conscious behavior with unconscious
behavior, etc. I believe that we can agree that the vast portion of our nervous
system is working constantly on all sorts of unconscious processes essential to
life and our lower order needs and behaviors, etc., whereas the conscious
activity is probably limited to some particular "cache" size where conscious
operative symbology (speaking chemically) is probably being disposed of and
renewed continuously as needed.

Well, you can probably set me straight immediately as this is your speciality
and please pardon me if I've overlooked some completely obvious thing in this
quick response...

Cordially,

Bob

Paul Marsden wrote:

> Paul wrote
>
> >However if you take the line of the of the alternative paradigm (Lynch for
> >example) as internal units of memory CONTRA units of imitation, then
> >memetics has little to do with contagion research (although it might not be
> >incompatible). For what it is worth I think that Lynch is mistaking a
> >useful heuristic device for the actual workings of our brain. Memetics is
> a
> >stance at the moment, and I think a very useful one. Taking the memetic
> >stance is can help understand behaviour NOW, and one day it might just
> >possibly (although I doubt it) help understand the mechanics of internal
> >brain activity.
>
> Aaron replied
>
> >I would be curious to know what it is that I seem to be saying about the
> >workings of our brains. In my view, a thought contagion could in principle
> >spread from a human brain to an alien's brain, or vice versa--and be stored
> >by vastly different internal workings.
>
> Aaron, I took your definition of a meme
>
> "MEME. Noun. A memory item, or portion of an organismís neurally-stored
> information, identified using the abstraction system of the observer, whose
> instantiation depended critically on causation by prior instantiation of the
> same memory item in one or more other organismsí nervous systems.
> ("Sameness" of memory items is determined with respect to the
> above-mentioned abstraction system of the observer."
>
> to mean
>
> "MEME. Noun. A memory item, or portion of an organismís NEURALLY-STORED
> information, identified using the abstraction system of the observer, whose
> instantiation depended critically on causation by prior instantiation of the
> same MEMORY ITEM in one or more other organismsí NERVOUS SYSTEM. ("Sameness"
> of memory items is determined with respect to the above-mentioned
> abstraction system of the observer.)
>
> Maybe I've got it all wrong, but I thought your article on meme mathematics,
> based on this internal definition, was alluding to putative real processes
> occurring inside brains (nervous systems i.e. mnemon combination etc),
> i.e. - but if they're just heuristics then we are in agreement, and I
> apologise.
>
> I obviously agree that social contagion phenomenon exists and that you can
> model, map and forecast the spread of behaviour (including verbal behaviour)
> through collectivities (this is what I do for a living) using the Bass
> equation etc. But, and this is the critical but, until you can measure a
> thought, studying the spread of internal memory items will be out of our
> reach for memetics. The only difference between us, (I think) is that I
> don't think thoughts can currently be measured as *real* "items". I would
> be more cautious and refer to thoughts as a heuristic device for
> understanding your BEHAVIOUR. To understand your behaviour, I posit
> "thoughts" (beliefs, attitudes, intentions etc) behind that behaviour. But
> that doesn't make those thoughts real, they may or may not exist. However
> the beauty and strength of memetics it doesn't have to rely on introspection
> or neurally stored information. This is what I meant when I compared your
> introspective concept with the sort of behaviourist operationalisation of
> the meme concept taken by myself, Sue, Derek which is consistent with the
> Oxford English Dictionary definition of the meme as ďA self-replicating
> element of culture, passed on by imitationĒ.
>
> Paul Marsden
> Graduate Research Centre in the Social Sciences
> University of Sussex
> e-mail PaulMarsden@msn.com
> tel/fax (44) (0) 117 974 1279
>
> Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission:
> http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit/
>
> ===============================================================
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> Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
> For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
> see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

--
Bob Grimes

http://members.aol.com/bob5266/ http://www.hotwired.com/members/profile/bobinjax/ http://www.phonefree.com/Scripts/cgiParse.exe?sID=28788 Jacksonville, Florida Bob5266@aol.com robert.grimes@mailexcite.com Bobgrimes@zdnetmail.com

Man is not in control, but the man who knows he is not in control is more in control...

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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit