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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Dec;81(6):1028-41.

Emotional selection in memes: the case of urban legends.

Author information

1
Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Califomia 94305, USA. heath_chip@gsb.stanford.edu

Abstract

This article explores how much memes like urban legends succeed on the basis of informational selection (i.e., truth or a moral lesson) and emotional selection (i.e., the ability to evoke emotions like anger, fear, or disgust). The article focuses on disgust because its elicitors have been precisely described. In Study 1, with controls for informational factors like truth, people were more willing to pass along stories that elicited stronger disgust. Study 2 randomly sampled legends and created versions that varied in disgust; people preferred to pass along versions that produced the highest level of disgust. Study 3 coded legends for specific story motifs that produce disgust (e.g., ingestion of a contaminated substance) and found that legends that contained more disgust motifs were distributed more widely on urban legend Web sites. The conclusion discusses implications of emotional selection for the social marketplace of ideas.

PMID:
11761305
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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