RE: Vertical vs. horizontal transmission (was: JASSS Critical

Aaron Lynch (
Thu, 29 Apr 1999 23:40:30 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 23:40:30 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Vertical vs. horizontal transmission (was: JASSS Critical
In-Reply-To: <000401be9295$6ca9c3c0$66223fce@rb4010>

At 04:10 PM 4/29/99 -0700, Richard Brodie wrote:
>Aaron wrote:
><<Nevertheless, meme propagation rates can be discussed directly. At the
>end, time constants of exponentially spreading memes can run into decades,
>perhaps even centuries, >>
>Hey! This is interesting stuff! What are a few examples of this kind of
>slow-spreading meme?

Actually, they tend to be right under our noses, but the gradualism makes
their growth trends less conspicuous. With Mormonism, the effects of
vertical and horizontal transmission combined give a time constant in
decades. The "slowness" of the horizontal component probably results from
the difficulty of transmitting a large meme complex that requires so much
change and investment by the new adherent. Making just a few lasting
converts per adherent per lifetime is quite a feat for an entire
population. Rodney Stark (The Rise of Christianity, Priceton University
Press, 1996) also finds evidence of slow time constants for Christianity in
its early centuries.

Memes that rely solely or predominantly on vetical propagation should also
have time constants in decades (or even centuries). That could include
taboos against non-procreational sex acts, family structure mores etc.
(That does not call for a blanket rule that horizontal is faster, however.
With American Catholicism, the vertical component is currently faster than
the horizontal, even though the time constant still runs into the decades.)
The Amish and Hutterites are cases of nearly pure vertical transmission,
(horizontal rate =~ 0) again with overall time constants in the decades.

--Aaron Lynch

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