virus: empathy and memetics

Robin Faichney (
Tue, 29 Apr 1997 10:20:00 +0100

Dave Pape wrote:
>Robin wrote:
>>>>empathy is a prerequisite for memetic transmission
>>>Why? What empathy does Coca Cola Schweppes have with me? Coke memes have
>>>certainly transmitted between that Company and my mind... otherwise I
>>>wouldn't call Cola "Coke".
>>Umm.. sorry, but if you want a response to this, you're
>>going to have to spell it out for me.
>Well... the dominant memes in my mind about Coke are "Jeez, Coke's shed.
>Everyone buys it, but it's so sugary it makes my teeth hurt, it's
>overpriced, and it's ludicrously fizzy...

>BUT I know about Coke, I can sing at least three Coke advertising tunes..

I think it's not unreasonable to suggest that, at the most basic level,
one of the essential elements in picking up tunes is mimicry -- in
this case, the tendency to sing along with "catchy" ones. Ditto for
other instances of memetic transmission. "Catchy" behaviours
just about covers what memetics is about, doesn't it? And
mimicry/modelling/whatever you want to call it is, on some accounts
at least, empathy in action. To be emotionally in accord is a more
common use of the word, but from this point of view is not required.
(Developmentally, mimicry would come first, and emotional
resonance later, building on it.)

EDITOR = "Nancy Eisenberg and Janet Strayer",
TITLE = "Empathy and its Development",
PUBLISHER = "Cambridge University Press",
ADDRESS = "Cambridge",
YEAR = 1990