Recessive memes

Nick Rose (
Thu, 24 Sep 1998 11:35:09 -0400 (EDT)

From: Nick Rose <>
Subject: Recessive memes
In-Reply-To: <>
Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 11:35:09 -0400 (EDT)

Nick Rose wrote:

>> In addition, I would think that most internalists would
>> agree that all we can copy/imitate is the 'behaviour'.
>> Recessive 'memes' never get passsed on - because they are
>> never seen. It is the 'behaviour' which we judge to be
>> similiar or the same (for identification of memes / meme
>> varients). And - In truth we have no idea whether the
>> same behaviours (in different individuals) are stored in
>> identifiable ways. If memeticists are interested in
>> human behaviour - what is wrong with focussing on human
>> behaviour?

Mario wrote:
> Can you give examples of recessive memes?

Well, I'm using the term loosely, just to get across the
idea - not suggest a literal similarity with genes.

If you define memes in terms of neural states (as Aaron
suggests) then you must be open to the possibility of
neural states having "coded" observed behaviours, but never
becoming active enough to cause the behaviour.

e.g. I see someone on TV punch someone when they disagreed
with them (behaviour) - that behaviour gets 'coded' in my
brain, as I have memories of it ('meme' for Aaron?) -
However, that 'meme' is too weak (too weakly activated?) to
compete with another 'meme' which causes me to argue with
them (behaviour). The 'meme' of hitting people when they
disagree with you - is a bit like a recessive gene in this
example. It exists in my brain, but it exerts no
phenotypic effect.

My argument is that it is only the memes that 'win' this
competition in the brain that we ever see/get passed on/
can count/ can do experiments with etc. 'recessive' memes
cannot skip generations like recessive genes can. If we're
interested in understanding the evolution of human culture,
we can get a very long way by looking at the behaviour.

Nick Rose
"University of the West of England"

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