Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Memes and Frames

In chapter 6, paragraph 16 of Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennett writes of memes, "[W]e must consider as a real possibility the hypothesis that the human hosts are, individually or as a group, either oblivious to, or agnostic about, or even positively dead set against some cultural item, which nevertheless is able to exploit its hosts as vectors." It strikes me that this is perfectly exemplified by the effect, noted by frame theorists like George Lakoff, whereby particular cognitive frames (e.g., the authoritarian-family frame most active in conservatives), by inducing those who positively dislike them (e.g., progressives) to react to their manifestations unreflectively, actually get themselves repeated and thereby reinforced in public discourse. In effect this means these frames exploit progressives' negative feeling about them to get themselvs replicated despite, or more accurately because of, that negative feeling. In these instances such frames could be regarded as robust examples of parasitical memes.

Eric Hamell

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