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Seven Modes of Memetic Transmission

 

Disciplines > Communication > Diffusion > Seven Modes of Memetic Transmission

Quantity Parental | Efficiency Parental | Proselytic | Preservational | Adversative | Cognitive Advantage | Motivational | See also

 

In his book ''Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads through Society", Aaron Lynch describes 'Seven Modes of Memetic Transmission' -- in other words significant ways that ideas spread:

  • Quantity Parental
  • Efficiency Parental
  • Proselytic
  • Preservational
  • Adversative
  • Cognitive Advantage
  • Motivational

Quantity Parental

Simply put, this means 'have lots of children'. We pick up values and beliefs when we are young that stay with us through our lives. Many of these come from our parents, who have significant opportunity to 'indoctrinate' us. Of course this effect can be amplified if, as a parent, you put in particular effort to spread your ideas to your children and prevent them from picking up beliefs from others.

This is visible in certain ethnic and religious groups, where parents control the lives of their children to a significant degree, even choosing partners and careers for them. In more lax society, 'pushy parents' are often seen as something undesirable.

Efficiency Parental

This approach leverages the 'Quantity Parental' idea and, suggests that, rather than doing it yourself (fun, but limited), you should get others to have lots of children and then indoctrinate them.

This approach is seen in religions and some cultures. The Catholic Church, for example, is against contraception, sees large families as healthy and is quite firm that someone born a Catholic stays that way. In poor countries where survival, especially into old age, depends on having children to support you, then large and close-knit families are more common.

Proselytic

This method goes outside the family and suggests convincing others that your ideas and beliefs are both right and urgent, and that others should not delay in spreading them further.

This is a pattern seen in preaching and activism, where a proponent seeks the widest possible audience and makes impassioned pleas for action and terrible threats about inaction (such as damnation, ostracization or catastrophe).

Preservational

In a form of reversed proselytizing, this approach is to defend your own ideas. A neat way of doing this is to make them undiscussable, such as they way that challenging religion is forbidden in many formal contexts (even to the point where laws have been formed about this).

A preservational approach can easily be combined with other methods, for example where you do not permit challenge of your ideas whilst you are also preaching them and attacking other ideas.

Adversative

This is a destructive approach which, at its most basic level could involve killing those who will not accept your beliefs. Although shocking, this is a practice that has been used in many contexts, notably in religions and politics, for many centuries.

A more legal approach is to attack the person verbally, discrediting them or making them socially unacceptable. Another alternative is to attack the idea, downplaying beliefs that are opposed to yours and framing them as weak or bad.

Cognitive Advantage

In a rational society, one of the best ways of propagating your ideas is to ensure they are logical and well founded. There are many principles of argument that can be use in this, such as Toulmin's model for composing a solid proposition.

A sound cognitive argument is de rigeur in academic circles, where the tiniest flaw is likely to be exposed and attacked. It can also be important in a democracy, where political opponents and media commentators are likely to challenge anything that cannot be supported.

Motivational

The final method is to use the passion and emotion as much as rational argument. Motivating people involves capturing their imagination as well as playing to the 'what's in it for me' question.

Business leaders who want their employees to whole-heartedly support a change may well use motivational methods, as will politicians in their electioneering.

See also

Argument, Ideas That Spread

 

Lynch, A. (1996). Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads through Society: The New Science of Memes, New York: Basic Books

 

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