Behavioral replication (was Re: Xtra!: Brodie defends Lynch)

Aaron Lynch (
Sun, 20 Sep 1998 11:54:51 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 11:54:51 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Behavioral replication (was Re: Xtra!: Brodie defends Lynch)
In-Reply-To: <>

At 10:37 AM 9/20/98 EDT, Chris Turner wrote:

Gatherer's Words below:
>>I agree, but likewise behaviour influences belief, or else you wouldn't
>>have any behavioural therapists (now available on the National
>>Health Service in the UK - works quite well on things like phobias,
>>and allegedly also on antisocial behaviour.) You want a one-way
>>street: internal memes make behaviours, information flows in one
>>direction. Except it doesn't. We learn what we see - the behaviour.
>>A belief or psychological state may come afterwards, but then it may be
>>(and probably will be) completely different to the internal state of
>>the individual we learned the behaviour from. The internal meme is a
>>poor replicator at best, and most of the time is simply not the
>>replicator. The behaviour replicates with far more fidelity. (In the
>>words of the Foster's beer advert: He who drinks Australian thinks

Dawkins (1976) seems to take the term "replicator" to hold a higher meaning
than simply "that which replicates." Moreover, in The Extended Phenotype
(1982), he treats behaviors as phenotypes of memes. In contrast, I point
out that culture is not isomorphic to the one-way translation from gene to
protein found in biology, which is the reason that cytochrome C, for
instance, is not usually analyzed as a replicator. (In my general sense of
replicator, (Lynch, 1998) cytochrome C still does replicate in the sense of
indirectly causing new molecules of "the same kind" to come into
existence.) Lacking the one-way translation of cell biology, there should
be even less reluctance to view a chain letter, for instance, as a
replicator in its own right. It co-propagates with the beliefs it imparts
to its readers. There is also no taboo in my scheme against accepting the
long-recognized effect of behavior upon belief, nor against considering
that some cases of belief propagation might be best analyzed in terms of
why the behavior spreads. I even have such an application in the works
myself, in my backlog of projects.


> I suggest that we regard 'memes' as 'experiential reaction
> neurocircuitry configuration programs' which are indeed
> transmitted "from head to head", i.e. from nervous system
> configuration to nervous system configuration, via our
> observations of one another's behaviors -- linguistic and
> otherwise -- which those 'programs'', in turn, direct.

Any kind of "neurocircuitry reconfiguration program" would fall within the
broad definition of "mnemon" given in Lynch, A. 1998: Units, Events, and
Dynamics in Memetic Evolution The above meme
definition would fit into the scope of the paper's meme definition, too.
That definition is more general, in that it does not resctrict
consideration to what might metaphorically be called "program" versus
"data" content in neural memory. It also does stays further away from
suggesting a brain to computer isomorphism by not even using the terms
"program" or "data."

MEME: A memory item, or portion of an organism's 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 organisms' nervous systems.
("Sameness" of memory items is determined with respect to the
above-mentioned abstraction system of the observer.)

Bill has asked why specify "neurally stored," and I left out part of the
answer. I use the term "neurally stored" instead of "internally stored"
largely to signify that I am not talking about genetic information. (Genes
can be neurally manifested, but not neurally stored in the senses in which
I use these terms.)

--Aaron Lynch

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