RE: astrology-talk behavior

Aaron Lynch (
Sat, 22 May 1999 09:59:34 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 09:59:34 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: astrology-talk behavior
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B20224C2F@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

Astrological compatibility talk would be worth analyzing even if it were as
rare as kuru, although I think it is considerably commoner than that. My
impression is that a relatively small minority consider it important enough
that it must be discussed during an early encounter in order to decide
whether go forward with dating.

A larger minority (perhaps a majority in some cities) have enough interest
to ask a date's sign without necessarily dropping someone just because of
astrological "incompatibility." Still, even in these cases, the meme may
spread as a sexually transmitted belief. The usual outcome of exchanging
signs is a determination of "incompatibility," with the "incompatibility"
rate running at typically 3/4 or 11/12 depending on the specific strains of
astrological mating memes. Most dating pairs who play this game are
therefore given a suggestion that they are incompatible. People being more
superstitious than they like to admit, this suggestion can play a part in
causing them to break off dating, perhaps by leading one or the other or
both to give up in the face of challenges that inevitably arise. If an
astrological mating meme thereby succeeds in causing the relationship to
break up, then it will cause its host to go back to dating other people and
again raising the subject of astrology with new people. If the meme fails
to cause the relationship to break up, then its host will go through a
long, possibly permanant episode of horizontal non-contagiousness in which
he/she no longer brings the subject up to potential mates. So if the
susceptible non-host availability rate is high enough, the meme will serve
its own propagation more effectively by contributing to the breakup of
relationships. In other words, we must not forget to ask "cui bono?"

None of this, or the effect described on my web site, means that there
cannot also be distinctly behavioral effects happening concurrently. One
behavioral effect that comes to mind is the strong effect of intermittent
reinforcement. When people exchange astrological signs, they will be
rewarded with a discovery of "compatibility" on an intermittent random
schedule that averages 3/4 or 11/12. What is important here is that the
memes themselves are determining the average reinforcement schedule for
their own expression. The high rate of expression behavior resulting from
intermittent reinforcement gives the memes a high retransmission rate
leading to wider prevalence. Again, cui bono?

--Aaron Lynch

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