Re: Inernal meme?

Aaron Lynch (
Fri, 24 Sep 1999 10:24:50 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999 10:24:50 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Inernal meme?
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B203493B3@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

At 09:00 AM 9/24/99 +0200, Gatherer, D. (Derek) wrote:
>Strictly speaking, this would count as *evidence*, not *proof* of a meme.
>Further evidence would necessarily include demonstrating that exposure to
>people who have "the same" internal reaction pattern correlates strongly
>with development of that internal reaction pattern in new people.
>Exactly. That would be a homoderivative mnemon instantiation event, as you
>would say. But that is preceisely where the problem lies.
>Consider the following:
>If I were a subject in a trial of this sort, and I were exposed to the
>threat words, and my amygdala and cortex were firing strongly in the
>expected manner, and if I were then placed in proximity to another
>individual who had _not_ been part of the trial, how could the amygdala
>'mnemon' pattern develop in his/her brain?
>If the other individual _had_ been part of the trial, the cause of the
>pattern in that other individual's brain would be exposure to the threat
>words and _not_ exposure to me.
>So, of the 2 possibilites, neither would involve a thought contagion event.

With a sufficiently large trial sample or an experiment design that
deliberately included parent-child pairs, we could get a glimpse of what
happens when someone who does not show the amygdala reaction pattern is
exposed long-term to someone who does. (Perhaps studying English speakers
in that remote Chinese province would help tease out confounding variables
like peer influence.) So you might find a 2-year old who does not show the
brain reaction pattern, but whose mother does. On re-testing several years
later, you might find the reaction pattern starting to emerge for the word
"destroy," for instance. This would count as further evidence. A tiny word
recognizer-logger on the mother for those several years might count out how
many times the word "destroy" was used in the interim. Electronic
micro-tags might also register the fraction of those enunciation behaviors
done in close proximity to the child. A tiny recognizer-logger on the child
might even count the number of times it "heard" the word enunciated by
others and by the child separately (an upgraded recognizer-logger would be
needed to distinguish the voice of the child from the voices of the parents
and others.) By means such as this, further research could accumulate
further evidence.

In my symbolism, the transmission event that took several years and perhaps
many enunciations of "destroy" might be summarized as something like "A +
~A --> 2A." Or if 5 people played crucial roles in teaching the word to the
child, it might be 5A + ~A --> 6A. Such event diagrams are thus rather
abstract summaries of what are often an extended, multi-stage processes
involving many constituent behaviors. Such a level of abstract summary is
useful mainly in looking at "the big picture" of how a meme spreads in the
population. It must not be confused as representing some kind of *direct*
(and silent) amygdala to amygdala transmission.

As for the details of *how* the amygdala reaction pattern develops as a
result of several year's exposure to someone using the word and also having
the pattern, that is a matter for further neuroscience research. If you
want to wait for that detailed research before being swayed, you are of
course free to wait.

--Aaron Lynch

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