More on bird memes, was On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Mark Mills (
Fri, 25 Sep 98 16:27:59 -0600

Subject: More on bird memes, was On Gatherer's behaviourist stance
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 98 16:27:59 -0600
From: Mark Mills <>
To: "Memetics List" <>
Message-Id: <>


>I agree with Gatherer's definition of a meme (and I
>paraphrase) "A behaviour learnt through processes akin to
>imitation". This definition is useful and important
>firstly because it excludes ordinarily learned behaviours
>(i.e. _Not_ imitation based, c.f. Mark Mill's last
>e-mail on animal 'memes')
>The 'behavioural' meme is great for immediate empirical
>work in memetics.

I'm not sure of the direction you are taking here. Are you ruling out
the possibility of bird memes or just including imitation in the

If the former, I'd point out that birds do a great deal of imitation.

If the latter, I'd point out the difference between 'imitation' and
'creative self-expression' is very fuzzy. For example, I may write a
great romantic poem. It would be based on my creative ability (your love
is like a tennis ball...) and my imitation of English words heard since
birth. If you drag a lot of checking for 'pure' imitation, it gets a lot
more difficult to collect empirical data. Also, without the creative
self expression option, avenues for memetic mutation get difficult to

Maybe, you are including a tiny bit of self-expression in the process of
imitation. That would be ok, but then the bird experiment start
exhibiting some imitation, too. The birds imitate their own past actions.

I suspect there is something going on here regarding a desire to
distinguish between instincts and memes, but I am guessing.


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