Re: Recessive memes

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Thu, 24 Sep 1998 13:06:03 +0200

Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 13:06:03 +0200
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Recessive memes

Nick Rose wrote:

> 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.

OK. The inherent problem now is that I can ask how you know about your
recessive meme: "Punch people when you disagree" (as opposed to your
dominant meme: "First discuss things with people when you disagree (and
only hit them afterwards" :-) ).According to behavioural memetics, you
cannot know about its existence, you cannot make assumptions about it (or
even about its existence), since it is never expressed.

Did you use introspection to tell us about this recessive meme? From what
I understood (from discussions with Johan Bollen and Paul Marsden in
Namur), 'knowing by introspection' is taboo in psychology.
Where did I go wrong?


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