1887
Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2210-4070
  • E-ISSN: 2210-4097
USD
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes

Abstract

Abstract

After a brief flurry of attention following its introduction by Dawkins (1976), the concept of has largely disappeared from mainstream social and cognitive science discourse. A significant exception is Dennett’s (1995; 2017) writings on the philosophy of mind. In his most recent book, Dennett (2017) develops what he presents as a comprehensive account of cultural evolution, based on the claims that memes, defined as a “ (roughly) that can be copied, transmitted, remembered, taught…,” develop through evolutionary processes more or less identical to the processes through which biological organisms and their genes evolve, and that both memes and genes are active agents in their own evolution. Although Dennett presents some very interesting ideas about the co-evolution of culture and human brains, he couches his argument in a system of , and metaphors that implicitly assign mental activities including intending, competing, and planning to memes. In this paper I analyze Dennett’s metaphors and argue that they effectively distract attention from the psychological and cultural processes that actually determine whether a behavior pattern (i.e. a ) is learned, remembered, and reproduced (none of which Dennett acknowledges). I then show how the substance of Dennett’s argument can be rephrased in language that avoids the obfuscating effect of his metaphors. In addition to countering a common metaphor-based misconception in evolution theory, this analysis illustrates the importance of close attention to the entailments of conceptual metaphors used as theoretical arguments.

Loading

Article metrics loading...

/content/journals/10.1075/msw.19010.rit
2021-09-08
2021-12-03
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

References

  1. Allport, G., & Postman, L.
    (1947) The psychology of rumor. New York: Rinehart & Winston.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Asch, S. E.
    (1948) The doctrine of suggestion, prestige, and imitation in social psychology. Psychological Review, 55, 250–276. 10.1037/h0057270
    https://doi.org/10.1037/h0057270 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bandura, A.
    (1965) Influence of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 589–595. 10.1037/h0022070
    https://doi.org/10.1037/h0022070 [Google Scholar]
  4. Baumeister, R. F., & Masicampo, E. J.
    (2010) Conscious thought is for facilitating social and cultural interactions: How mental simulations serve the animal – culture interface. Psychological Review, 117, 945–971. 10.1037/a0019393
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019393 [Google Scholar]
  5. Bednarik, R. G.
    (2008) The domestication of humans. Anthropologie, 46, 1–17.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Bickerton, D.
    (2009) Adam’s tongue: How humans made language, how language made humans. New York: Hill and Wang.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Blackmore, S.
    (1999) The meme machine. Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Bordia, P., & DiFonzo, N.
    (2004) Problem solving in social interactions on the internet: Rumor as social cognition. Social Psychology Quarterly, 67, 33–49. 10.1177/019027250406700105
    https://doi.org/10.1177/019027250406700105 [Google Scholar]
  9. Centola, D., & Baronchelli, A.
    (2015) The spontaneous emergence of conventions: An experimental study of cultural evolution. PNASFebruary17 2015, 112 (7) 1989–1994.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Dawkins, R.
    (1976) The selfish gene. Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Dennett, D. C.
    (1995) Darwin’s dangerous idea. New York: Simon and Schuster.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. (2017) From bacteria to Bach and back: The evolution of minds. New York: Norton.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Dorst, A. G., & Kaal, A. G.
    (2012) Metaphor in discourse: Beyond the boundaries of MIP. InF. MacArthur, J. L. Oncins-Martinez, M. Sanchez-Garcia, & A. M. Piquer-Piriz (Eds.), Metaphor in use: Context, culture, and communication (pp.51–68). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Dunbar, R. I. M.
    (1996) Grooming, gossip, and the evolution of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. (2003) The social brain: Mind, language, and society in evolutionary perspective. Annual Review of Anthropology, 32, 163–81. 10.1146/annurev.anthro.32.061002.093158
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.32.061002.093158 [Google Scholar]
  16. (2014) Human evolution: A Pelican introduction. New York: Penguin Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Everett, D. L.
    (2017) How language began: The story of humanity’s greatest invention. New York: Liveright.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Falkinger, J.
    (2007) Attention economies. Journal of Economic Theory, 133, 266–294. 10.1016/j.jet.2005.12.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jet.2005.12.001 [Google Scholar]
  19. Ferrara, E., & Yang, Z.
    (2015) Measuring emotional contagion in social media. PLoS ONE10 (11): e0142390. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0142390
    https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0142390 [Google Scholar]
  20. Festinger, L.
    (1954) A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140. 10.1177/001872675400700202
    https://doi.org/10.1177/001872675400700202 [Google Scholar]
  21. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., & Kahneman, D.
    (Eds.) (2002) Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511808098
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511808098 [Google Scholar]
  22. Gould, M., Jamieson, P., & Romer, D.
    (2003) Media contagion and suicide among the young. The American Behavioral Scientist, 46, 1269–1284. 10.1177/0002764202250670
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764202250670 [Google Scholar]
  23. Hovland, C. I.
    (1951) Human learning and retention. InS. S. Stevens (Ed.), Handbook of experimental psychology. New York: Wiley.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Kahneman, D.
    (2013) Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A.
    (1979) Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47(2), 263–291. 10.2307/1914185
    https://doi.org/10.2307/1914185 [Google Scholar]
  26. Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T.
    (2014) Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p. 201320040. 10.1073/pnas.1320040111
    https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1320040111 [Google Scholar]
  27. Landauer, T. K., & Dumais, S. T.
    (1997) A solution to Plato’s problem: The latent semantic analysis theory of acquisition induction, and representation of knowledge. Psychological Review, 104, 211–240. 10.1037/0033‑295X.104.2.211
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.104.2.211 [Google Scholar]
  28. Moscovici, S.
    (2004) La psychanalyse, son image et son public. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. 10.3917/puf.mosco.2004.01
    https://doi.org/10.3917/puf.mosco.2004.01 [Google Scholar]
  29. Moyer-Gusé, E.
    (2008) Toward a theory of entertainment persuasion: Explaining the persuasive effects of entertainment-education messages. Communication Theory, 18, 407–425. 10.1111/j.1468‑2885.2008.00328.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2885.2008.00328.x [Google Scholar]
  30. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T.
    (1981) Attitudes and persuasion – Classic and contemporary approaches. Dubuque, IA: W. C. Brown.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Phillips, D.
    (1980) Airplane accidents, murder, and the mass media: Towards a theory of imitation and suggestion. Social Forces, 58, 1001–1004. 10.2307/2577310
    https://doi.org/10.2307/2577310 [Google Scholar]
  32. Phillips, D. P., Lesyna, K., & Paight, D. J.
    (1992) Suicide and the media. InR. W. Maris, A. L. Berman, J. T. Maltsberger, & R. I. Yufit (Eds.). Assessment and prediction of suicide (pp.499–519). New York: Guilford.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Ritchie, L. D.
    (2017a) A note about meta-metaphors: Considering the theoretical implications of terms used to discuss metaphor. Metaphor and the Social World, 7(2), 292–299. 10.1075/msw.7.2.07rit
    https://doi.org/10.1075/msw.7.2.07rit [Google Scholar]
  34. (2017b) Story metaphors: Narratives and figurative language in discourse. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Ritchie, L. D., Feliciano, A., & Sparks, A.
    (2018) Rhetorical confinement, contrasting metaphors, and cultural polarities: “Yes we can” meets “Carnage in the cities.” Metaphor and the Social World, 8(2), 247–266. 10.1075/msw.17014.rit
    https://doi.org/10.1075/msw.17014.rit [Google Scholar]
  36. Ritt, N.
    (2004) Selfish sounds and linguistic evolution: A Darwinian approach to language change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511486449
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486449 [Google Scholar]
  37. Rogers, E. M.
    (2003) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Simon, H.
    (1971) Designing organizations for an information-rich world. InM. Greenberger (Ed.), Computers, communication, and the public interest (pp.37–52). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D.
    (1992) Advances in prospect theory: Cumulative representation of uncertainty. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty. 5(4), 297–323. 10.1007/BF00122574
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00122574 [Google Scholar]
  40. Weng, L., Flammini, A., Vespignani, A., & Menczer, F.
    (2012) Competition among memes in a world with limited attention. Scientific Reports, 2, Article number: 335. 10.1038/srep00335
    https://doi.org/10.1038/srep00335 [Google Scholar]
http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/journals/10.1075/msw.19010.rit
Loading
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): cultural evolution; Dennett; evolution theory; meme; metaphor; science communication
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error