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Biosemiotics. 2019 Apr;12(1):131-156. doi: 10.1007/s12304-018-9341-z. Epub 2018 Nov 21.

I am a fake loop: The effects of advertising-based artificial selection.

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Assistant Professor, School of Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands.


Mimicry is common among animals, plants, and other kingdoms of life. Humans in late capitalism, however, have devised an unique method of mimicking the signs that trigger evolutionarily-programmed instincts of their own species in order to manipulate them. Marketing and advertising are the most pervasive and sophisticated forms of known human mimicry, deliberately hijacking our instincts in order to select on the basis of one dimension only: profit. But marketing and advertising also strangely undermines their form of mimicry deceiving both the intended targets and the signaler simultaneously. Human forms of mimicry have the regular consequence of deceiving the imitator, reducing meta-cognitive awareness of the act and intentions surrounding such deception. Therefore, the deceiver in the end deceives himself as well as intended targets. Drawing on scholarship applying Niko Tinbergen's the ethological discovery of supernormal stimuli in animals to humans, this article analyzes sophisticated mass mimicry in contemporary culture, in both intended and unintended forms.


Supernormal stimuli; Tinbergen; deceptive semiosis; evolutionarily disadvantageous mimicry; human Umwelt

[Available on 2020-04-01]

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of Interest: The author declares no conflict of interest.

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