Contagious  Emotion

  May 13, 2015

The human brain has three parts: the new part, the neocortex, 2.5 million years old and the two older parts;  the limbic system and brainstem. The limbic system and the brainstem are shared by all mammals. the brainstem  is our reptilian brain.  It is 250 million years old. When we catch a contagious emotion it is the result of communication  between our reptilian brains. Emotions are much more primitive than reason.

While some emotion is initiated by the inanimate or nonhuman, most emotion is the result of “catching” it from the action or inaction of other people. Such a large percentage of human emotion is the result of a contagious human interaction it is unnecessary to qualify it as contagious, emotion is 99% contagious. We catch emotions from other people through sight, sound and touch primarily, perhaps via smell / vome  vome refers to the vomero-nasal system wherein pheromones are sensed. Vomes are not smells. The vomeronasal apparatus is a separate sensory organ from the olfactory apparatus. Pheromones are not smells but they enter our bodies through our noses to reach our jacobson’s organ, a microscopic hole in the nasal septum through which pheromone molecules travel to reach the vome neurons.

The bulk of the neocortex interprets social signals adding layers of meaning via memory and detailed interpretation of sensory input. Humans are emotional instruments, pianos with keys played every hour of the day in real time interactions with other people. Our piano is played by our subconscious in our imagination and dreams. Who plays your piano?

Our brainstem is  the first brain area to receive sensory input but it is the emotion processing role of the neocortex makes us rational humans. The brainstem/ basal ganglia  is a set of drums  played by the people we meet,  but the melody,  harmony and cacophony happens in our neocortex, our Modern, uniquely human brain, the pink, wrinkly part. The neocortex adds layers of meaning by which we stratify ourselves in all relationships as we post-process all signals from other people with our added subtle neocortical interpretation . It is this capacity for sign-making, as language, written and spoken that has enabled culture to develop. The neocortex allows ultra-fine levels of social stratification to be acted, sounded, smelled, vomed out and enforced in every human interaction  allowing role diversity via shared emotion.

Human role differentiation-stratification enables the turbulent engine of social convection  to operate. As a result of an infinitude of neocortical social interpretations among tribal populations, we operate as societies. Neocortical emotional information accruing through life  gives us each our definition in society. We learn our places at various levels,  public and private and live these roles as developed and defined by the infinite web of responses to emotion.  When people tire of their assigned roles, that emerge from their own actions, rebellion, divorce and revolution ensue.

Claude Levi-Strauss, in his seminal book on human culture, The Savage Mind -1962

presents evidence for shared strategies among all societies that ensure tribal cohesion,  that all members are on the same ideological-emotional-mythical-totemic page, that tribe-specific cultural contagion is homogeneous among  members. Tribes, whether Christians in Minneapolis, Muslims in Tehran or Yanomamo in Brazil share, among themselves,  tribal rules encoded by emotion in the stone talisman or library that reveals the story of tribal origin.

All social experience is an emotional web. Emotion begins as gumbo and is rapidly sorted by the brainstem into shrimp, sausage, tomatoes, potatoes and rice i.e. love, hate, fear, envy, joy, contentment, sadness, worry, shame, guilt and curiosity.

When President Lyndon Johnson wanted a colleague in the U.S. Senate to share his emotional attachment to a piece of legislation he would walk beside this legislator, drape his long arm around his shoulder and lean into his ear to speak creating a full multi-sensory bath to accompany his words. LBJ using the languages of sight, touch, smell, vome as well as speech to ensure emotional contagion. To feel the size of the man, the pressure of his large hand,  his cigarette breath along with words creates a reptilian impression accompanying later neocortical logic.

Contagious: Capable of being easily spread to others causing other people to feel or act a similar way.

  • Able to be passed from one animal to another by touching.
  • Having a sickness that can be passed to someone else by touching.
  • Communicable by contact
  • Exciting similar emotions or conduct in others - contagious enthusiasm
  • Transmissible, transmittable

Emotion: Biologically innate agitation of the feelings universal to all humans displayed primarily through facial expression, increased heart-rate, perspiration and blushing while experiencing any of the following or combinations thereof: Love, hate, anger, fear, disgust, shame, contempt, frustration, pride.

“He who begins by steeping himself  in the allegedly self-evident truths of introspection never emerges from them.” - Claude Levi-Strauss

“It is easily forgotten that each of the tens of thousands of societies which have existed side by side in the world or succeeded one another since man’s first appearance has claimed that it contains the essence of all the meaning and dignity of which human society is capable and reduced, though it may have been, to a small nomad band or a hamlet lost in the depths of the forest, its claim has, in its own eyes, rested on a moral certainty comparable to that which we can invoke in our own case. Whether the remote case or our own, a good deal of egocentricity and naivete is necessary to believe that man has taken refuge in a single one of the historical or geographical modes of his existence, when the truth about man resides in the system of their differences and common properties.” - Claude Levi-Strauss - The Savage Mind - 1962

Emotional contagion is the tendency for two individuals to emotionally converge. One view, developed by Elaine Hatfield et al., is that this can be done through automatic mimicry and synchronization of one's expressions, vocalizations, postures and movements with those of another person. When people unconsciously mimic their companions' expressions of emotion, they come to feel reflections of those companions' emotions. Emotions can be shared across individuals in many different ways both implicitly or explicitly. For instance, conscious reasoning, analysis and imagination have all been found to contribute to the phenomenon.  Emotional contagion is important to personal relationships because it fosters emotional synchrony between individuals. A broader definition of the phenomenon was suggested by Schoenewolf: "a process in which a person or group influences the emotions or behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and behavioral attitudes".  -Wiki

“Language is no longer regarded as peripheral to our grasp of the world we live in, but

as central to it. Words are not mere vocal labels or communicational ad-

juncts superimposed on an already given order of things. They are collective

products of social interaction, essential instruments through which human

beings constitute and articulate their world.” -  Ferdinand de Saussure

“If the central task of art history is the study of visual images, the issue of "word and image" focuses attention on the relation of visual representation to language. More broadly, "word and image" designates the relation of art history to literary history, textual studies, linguistics, and other disciplines that deal primarily with verbal expression. Even more generally, "word and image" is a kind of shorthand name for a basic division in the human experience of representations, presentations, and symbols. We might call this division the relation between the seeable and the sayable, display and discourse, showing and telling (Foucault 1982; Deleuze 1988; W.J.T. Mitchell 1994).

Great songs are emotionally contagious. Listening to the first verse in Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” one has most  senses engaged immediately:

“Nibblin’ on sponge cake” - taste

“Watchin’ the sun bake” - sight

“all of the tourists all covered in oil” - sight, smell, touch

“Strummin’ my six string” - sound-music

“On my front porch swing” - kinesthetic - motion

“smell those shrimp-they’re beginnin’ to boil” - smell,

If one has sympathy for boiling creatures, the kinesthetic drama of being boiled.  We’re viscerally-emotionally hooked in the first verse. There is the rhythm, melody, prosody, vocal mood of the song itself added to the epiphenomena of the things sung about - a double whammy.

“Consider, for instance, the words you are reading at this moment. They are (one hopes) intelligible verbal signs. You can read them aloud, translate them into other languages, interpret or paraphrase them. They are also visible marks on the page, or (if read aloud) audible sounds in the air. You can see them as black marks on a white background, with specific shapes, sizes, and locations; you can hear them as sounds against a background of relative silence. In short, they present a double face to both the eye and the ear: one face is that of the articulate sign in a language; the other is that of a formal visual or aural gestalt, an optical or acoustical image. Normally we look only at one face and ignore the other: we don't pay much attention to the typography or graphic look of a text; we don't listen to the sounds of words, preferring to concentrate on the meaning they convey. But it is always possible to shift our attention…..” Mitchell-1996


Spontaneous popular uprisings shake the world in 1968. U.S. anti-Vietnam War protests are a contagion for youth of all Western nations. How does this happen?  Did the French have an issue with U.S. involvement in Vietnam or were they simply itching to protest, to get in on the action? What tumblers in the lock line up to open this door of collective consciousness, of shared emotion between two people or two million people? Minds align via theory,smell, sound, taste, vome and touch.

This idea passes the smell test

  • That idea leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
  • I can see your point..
  • This idea stinks
  • That idea sounds crazy.
  • This idea just doesn’t feel right.

Large groups under the influence of contagious emotion:

  • French Revolutionaries at Bastille 1789
  • Pittsburgh steelworkers vs Pinkertons at Homestead Steel Works - 1892
  • Woodstock 1969
  • The Pope at St. Peter’s square addresses Easter throng
  • Greek ruler Alexander battles Persian King Darius
  • Millions listen to FDR “Fireside Chats” on radio
  • WWII victory celebration in Times Square 1945
  • Race riots of 1960s U.S.
  • Beatles at Shea Stadium 1965
  • NFL Football game

Howard Gardner's “Eight Intelligences”  as mechanisms of emotional contagion.

If emotion is contagious what is the emotional virus? what actually transpires between people? See: Dawkins' meme, Gladwell’s tipping point

Process: Romance viral pathway

  1. I am alone
  2. I see an attractive person
  3. I speak, we converse, we smell, listen, see, vome-out (JB neolog for pheromone exchange a bit too close to vo-mit)
  4. I pay professionals to stimulate senses on first date

a.To drive taxi to restaurant

b.To cook a fine meal

  1. to entertain via sight and sound - Concert

I enlist as many senses as possible from myself and others in my effort to win a second date.

Process: Race Riot viral pathway:

  1. I am alone and unemployed and a member of a race that has been marginalized.
  2. I am negated, harassed by police for years
  3. I lust to  share my sense of injustice, alienation, victimhood.
  4. I tear the f-ing place apart using sight, sound, muscle

In each of these two cases,  contagious emotion flows through the Paleolithic brain’s Papez Circuit delaying rational, neocortical functions - postponing them as secondary as I enlist primitive basal ganglia at most direct sensory level with little or no symbolic abstraction, little signage. that which is signified is olfactory, visual, audio, vomeric,

tactile, not neocortical.

Emotional contagion is primal. The more senses involved,  the speedier the contagion spreads. Totems signifying wealth stimulate reptilian instinct for sex ( not a newsflash)

Snarky wisdom: The money you make by marrying it will be the hardest money you will ever earn.

The advertising industry revolves around discovering new ways to stimulate the Papez circuit as traditional paths become exhausted in the greater population, just as use of drugs necessitates increasing doses until the system collapses.


A child sees, hears, is touched by a grief-stricken parent and the sadness is easily transferred. The younger the child, the stronger, deeper, more permanent the effect.

This also applies to any emotion: anger, bliss, remorse, love, humor, embarrassment.

Parent fears are contagious. Children catch them all to one degree or another. So unfair for a young human to be saddled with an array of second hand fear. Why not start fresh with each generation? Adolescents are hardwired to rebel from this oppressive catalog of emotional burden that has been absorbed from parents, siblings, friends, teachers and the media.

How does the child catch an emotional virus?

  1. Kind words plus a big hug, angry words plus a beating
  2. Tender voice or shouting
  3. Abandonment to orphanage, cheerful family vacation
  4. Being ignored, being included
  5. Addressed with respect, subjected to silent treatment
  6. Watching parents show affection, watching parents fight and scream.
  7. Love is in the air, vomero-nasal fear and loathing in the household air

The strata of emotional memory read like the walls of the Grand Canyon. We remember all emotional events and they all combine to shape our landscape.

when a current scenario trips a layer of our emotional sediment we have a reptilian response beyond reason issuing from the basal ganglia. We all share a primitive instinct to gather as a tribe. This instinct has outlets in sporting events, rock shows, symphony-ballet-theater. The tribe gathers over a dim nighttime light to hear stories and to see stories unfold. Soccer riots, race riots, war protests, flash mobs at the mall. We are driven to experience the emotional contagion of our tribal gathering in order to confirm our identity as a member of our tribe in good standing.

Alas, we have priced the bulk of our population out of its rightful participation in shared tribe-wide rituals of gathering / bonding. A day for two at a baseball game can exceed $150. Rock concerts and football games are expensive. This exclusion from public tribal bonding further exacerbates the rich-poor divide in America as it separates the middle- middle class from the lower-middle class.  Middle-middle is bonded via public spectacle, lower middle does without, an alien in his or her own land. Americans are forced to forego rightful tribal bonding even at the neighborhood cineplex. Isolated individuals and families sit at home, a growing void where tribal inclusion should thrive.

Some viruses are a healthy part of one’s necessary biota. the emotional virus is a double-edged organism. Like many viruses we need just the right amount for beneficial effects and depend on our immune system to maintain this stasis by killing viral excess. what systems do we use to maintain balance of our emotional virus population? If too much emotional virus, nervous breakdown brings social life to a halt.  Some people lack an emotional governing mechanism, thus are subject to intermittent overload.


It is a long-established fact that humans perceive signs, language and their entire external world in terms of differences. The letter Q is slightly different from the letter O or the number 0. One neuron has a methylated histone sitting adjacent to a phosphorylated histone on unspooled DNA,  having lost its twin-sock form to become a mass of chromatin with many DNA sites exposed for post translational modification at euchromatin - memory formation, labelling, storage, recall.

A memory is a difference coded as a few molecules added to or subtracted from DNA, RNA, histones, etc. Perhaps this coding occurs in the rough endoplasmic reticulum surrounding the nuclear membrane. Perhaps each memory has its own specific ribosome with its unique molecular signature that sends memory messages as proteins until death or dementia. Ribosomes pick up signals incoming from any of 1,000 points on a more or less spherical 360 degree, imagine a 3D compass with every degree 360 x 360 capable of coding a specific memory depending on what part of the brain sent the message. OK, now we have our memory - vive la difference! step II Now code for intensity and quality select from a menu of 500 add-ons to code from bliss to terror so that this memory can be filed in its proper memory bank and safe deposit box. Each memory as a manila folder with some sight, smell, sound, vome or taste associated with it,  each in varying degrees of intensity from one to five hundred. Are these intensity tags aminos attached to the previously modified histone or ribosome? We’ll get to the bottom of this !

One still distills at da still then toasts de Stijl on de stilts.

Is there an array of proteinic tags for DNA or histones or ribosomes that describe emotion just as there are ones to discern musical pitch, smell and taste? Say 500 shades of joy - emotion from bliss (#3)  to terror (#495). OK, Sally annoyed me and I will never forget her nasty remark though I would like to. It is coded as intensity #273 up from bliss where it is now registered as bothersome. This memory will be shipped to long term memory and shorter term memory. One remembers who one’s friends are. This Sally event is now taking up my brainspace as a doubly tagged piece of genetic material. Tagged the first time as it registered and a second time to register its severity. The severity tag is read by still other neurons at the brain logistics center and freight-forwarded with a chemical bar code indicating its final destination. This chemical barcode will be read at each of five stops on the Papez circuit: thalamus, hippocampus, cerebellum, amygdala and finally the cingulate gyrus where the buck will stop.

Snarky aside: Novels written by people who do not read good fiction and have not read good fiction ALWAYS suck ! ! There has been no such thing as natural talent after Fielding’s Tom Jones written in the 18th century. Do your homework tyros ! There are far too many excellent novels around to waste time on junky, ignorant, trite, smarmy, hackneyed, narrow scribbling, even if this paperback novel did take you years to write. A great story is NOTHING without excellent writing, at least one sympathetic character, clear, concise, imaginative, fresh analogies and metaphors.

How many separate times do methylations occur by the time an experience is stored as a memory in its proper brain area? What is the method of transmission, a chemical or electrical signal or both? Are protein molecules actually moved around in the brain during sensation - memory formation? What is transmitted around the Papez circuit? actual physical things or a sign, an abstraction or a meta-abstraction?

When storing a memory of a single encounter with another person:

  1. Is this information stored at a single brain cell or a cluster of brain cells?
  2. Is this single cell a neuron or an astrocyte?
  3. Is it one neuron and five glial cells?
  4. How many different types of brain cells are involved in this process?
  5. Do we use our hearts, lungs and or stomachs for long-term memory storage?
  6. Do neurons in our fingers store memories? Do any muscles store memories at the arms or legs? Is muscle memory in the muscle or the brain?
  7. Are microglia interneuron messengers with their ameboid characteristics ( similar to macrophages). Neurons vary in size from 4 to 100 microns in diameter
  8. Neurons at the hippocampus can regenerate.
  9. There are hundreds of different types and subtypes of neurons
  10. There are four parts to the brain: Cerebrum, Cerebellum, Diencephalon, Brain-stem. There are 100 billion neurons
  11. The brain first appeared in fish 500 MYA (Million Years Ago)
  12. In the most advanced reptiles 250 MYA
  13. The Limbic system first appeared in small mammals 150 MYA
  14. the human neocortex greatly expanded in primates 2.5 MYA @ humans
  15. Is helplessness an emotion?
  16. A genome is itself  a memory device. It remembers that you must remember and codes for structures to enable this. Genes remember the big stuff - that the head sits on top of the shoulders not below. Acetylated histones remember to take out the trash.
  17. What is the difference between division and multiplication? A cell divides into two. Each of these two grows larger, after a certain point it is said that the cell has multiplied. The difference between division and multiplication is an arbitrary agreed upon point in a continuum.
  18. The Boys In The Boat - nonfiction bestseller. Intercollegiate rowing transforms emotional bonding, through shared adrenalin addiction,  into religion. One could be addicted to worse.
  19. Rowing: passion, intensity, relentless hard work of a band of brothers / sisters without music but with great rhythm, little  glory. One drug supplants all others in rowing - adrenalin - go out and make some of your own.

“Judge not that ye be not judged” - Holy Bible - Try telling this to your basal ganglia.


Addendum #1 - Saussure in a nutshell

Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, professor of general linguistics in Geneva from 1896-1911 appearing in his posthumous assemblage of class notes Course In general Linguistics, published in 1916. In contrast with most of his predecessors who focussed on the historical evolution of languages, Saussure emphasizes the primacy of SYNCHRONIC analysis to understand their inner functioning. Synchrony ( history is a SYN with synchrony).

A diachronic approach to linguistics  considers the development and evolution of a language through history. The word is built on the ancient Greek words for “through” and “time”. Historical linguistics is typically a diachronic study.

A synchronic approach to linguistics considers a language without taking its history into account. The word is built on the ancient Greek words “with” and “Time”. Synchronic linguistics aims at describing language rules at a specific point in time ( usually the present) even though they may have been different in the past. Middle-school grammar uses a synchronic approach.

This Saussurian dualism has spread into  the roots of all post- WWII thought in many fields other than linguistics: Anthropology ( Levi-Strauss) Contemporary linguistics ( Chomsky in his swerving from it- Chomsky’s teachers were steeped in Saussure: Bloomfield, Jakobson, Harris, et al) Psychoanalysis ( Lacan) Architecture ( The entire Modern movement) Sociology, History itself, Philosophy: Barthes, Foucault, Deleuze, Debord, Derrida, Baudrillard, and Literary Criticism - DeMann, etc. If 20th century bioscience belong to Neo-Darwinists, all else was Saussurian.

“Do mythical representations correspond to an actual structure that models social and religious practices or do they translate only the congealed image by means of which native philosophers give themselves the illusion of fixing a reality which escapes them?”


This is the 64 thousand dollar question for everyone in any culture, not just the philosophers. Every member of a society buys into its myth structure to one extent or another. Perhaps schizophrenics are missing the gene ( gene translation?)  for myth- making and myth- believing. Schizophrenics are unable to buy into the game being taught, learned and played in every society with its countless, complex layers of agreed upon belief. The more sensible among these abnormals become our tricksters playing us against ourselves and one another from their perch beyond myth.  The tricksters are the ones who had no taste for the Kool Aid and no means to digest it.

Much of this mythical belief is coded by the academic community at expensive institutions so that full myth comprehension is unavailable even to intelligent, fully functioning members of the tribe.  One purchases a secret code with which to  navigate Wall Street, Corporate Capitalism and academia itself.


The “Neo” in Neo-Darwinism is Saussurean synchrony introduced into the Darwinian program by Mendel and the blossoming study of genetics,  thus creating a productive dialectic between the Lyellian evolutionary continuum and the breadth of genetic inquiry in real-time cell biology, genetics, genomics, embryology, proteomics, neuroscience and all other bio-sciences.

Embryology is by definition a synthesis of diachrony and synchrony at its most concentrated. Diachrony-history stays in the picture,Synchrony -factor out history, examine in real-time for lateral relationships not historically linear ones.

Syntagmatic Chain: Implies surface analysis as opposed to deep paradigmatic analysis. Syntagmatic means one element selects another element to precede or to follow it. A syntagm is a chain that leads to understanding how a sequence of events forms a narrative. “A syntagmatic analysis can describe a spatial relationship of a visual text such as posters, photographs or a filmed scene.” - David Lodge, Susan Spiggle

Saussure is the father of Structuralism, a key concept in most 20th century thought. The central notion of Structuralism is that there are constant laws of abstract culture at the root of local variations of expressed phenomena. Saussure expanded this concept in linguistics.

JB “Waffle Iron” analogy  for Structuralism.  Structuralism is now manifest in many realms of thought but I’ll use language in this analogy as it was the first use of the concept by Saussure. Waffles are languages.  Humans are born with a waffle iron in their brain. This waffle iron is in the neocortex. The architecture of the waffle iron is coded in our DNA at the FOXP2 gene. Structuralism asserts that this waffle iron contains a code for sign-making. The language waffle iron is ready to receive waffle batter soon after birth. The batter is  language specifics such syntax and vocabulary, etc. This waffle iron is dedicated to symbolic communication, we are born with it.

The notion of Structuralism was conceived in relation to linguistics but spread during the first half of the 20th century to anthropology, sociology, philosophy and literary theory, each with its specific waffle iron pre-installed in the neocortex.  In anthropology during the 1950s, Claude Levi-Strauss proposed that many phenomena that organize human culture besides language had their own discrete waffle irons such as kinship, exchange systems, plant and animal classification, stories of origin, myth making. He concluded that every culture on Earth whether “primitive” or “modern” has the same set of inborn waffle irons with the only differences between cultures being different recipes for the batter. The batter being traditions that develop and are passed to new members within each of tens of thousands of tribes all around the world, tribes deep in the jungle mountains of New Guinea and tribes in Manhattan and Los Angeles. In the 1960s Noam Chomsky asserted that grammar was an inborn component of our sign-making waffle iron.


The following are Miscellaneous Thoughts on The Savage MInd- Levi-Strauss-1962

The Saussurian concept of “opposition” seems an odd term for the “differences” described as they rarely involve opposite or opposing entities / concepts but adjacent ones with very small differences. “Oppositions” is bombast, exaggeration for effect, self-dramatizing, a cooler sounding word for the trivial distinctions possible in the sensible world.

Every artwork contains its own myth. It is up to each artist to make it convincing. Van Gogh, Cezanne, Malevich, Hopper, Warhol, de Kooning and Wyeth constructed convincing myths.

Levi-Strauss on tribal sacrifice: “Once the relationship between man and the deity is secured by sacralization of the victim, the sacrifice breaks it by destroying this same victim.”  See: U.S.A. star-making machinery.

Re: Saussure: How can one comprehend an innately historical construct like totemism using an heuristic that, by definition, denies history i.e. Saussure’s synchrony which became Structuralism for Levi-Strauss’ and a generation of others in the social sciences.

Levi-Strauss milks Saussure’s synchronic / diachronic heuristic beyond its carrying capacity. This dualism was invented to describe aspects of the study of linguistics not necessarily all other ethnographic aspects of a culture: totemism, marriage, medicine etc. Though his use is imaginative in its re-purposing in discussing tribal naming strategies, he overdoes it, resulting in excessive squid rasslin’. Like taking a hammer to your Nikon lens to illustrate Cubism’s multivalent station point then using this lens to catalog the inhabitants of villages around the world. Gee, they all look so, so .....multivalent.

Right-Left brain cross-checking always at work regardless of one’s hardwired leaning of reality analysis: linear vs lateral, language vs form, rational vs intuitive. We are hardwired to cross-check all stimuli with reason and intuition. We are all artists and scientists to one degree or another all day.

The achilles heel of mid-20th century French philosophy  was to take Sartre too seriously, to give him a foundational import his ideas did not warrant. In lean post WWII times one made do with what was at hand. Sartre was the only squid in the room with which to rassle as one made intellectual-academic-philosophic bones.

Levi-Strauss’ use of “dialectical” reason to penetrate an unreasonable realm - human culture. Is Levi-Strauss’ dialectic between Totemic- Modern holding down one side of the the dialectic with Scientific- Modern on the other side thus giving primacy to Western reason either way - like Gould’s inability to marginalize Darwin, though he had 1,000 pages of evidence with which to do so. Levi-strauss cannot bring himself to marginalize rational thought in his explanations of systems containing very little.

Idea: Store memories in the alveoli of our lungs as puffs of gas that could be read by their gas molecular signature like the camera in the nosecone of a sidewinder air to air missile that reads the chemistry of jet aircraft exhaust signatures to discern friend from foe.

Chomsky asserts that many of the properties of generative grammar arise from a universal grammar innate in the human brain. If this is the case, at which gene is this capacity coded? Is it the FOXP2 gene or a cluster of methylated histones at neurons in Broca / Wernicke zones of the neocortex? Is the cluster of neurons coded for grammar present at birth? at age two? age four? Age six? What percentage of this total inborn grammar package is present at birth? Is it all present by age 13? What is the chemistry / biosynthesis involved in translating the core genetic material into a functioning grammar instinct?

Why is the FOXP2 gene ( for language) expressed in heart, lung, gut as well as the brain?

When did Chomsky’s human grammar package evolve in Homo erectus? Did it emerge as a functional entity or did it accrue serviceability over millions of years of development. Is it finished evolving? Is there a better grammar in our future?

I doubt that our capacity for grammar, even if present at birth, is important enough on the evolutionary scale to warrant a dedicated gene. There is probably a cluster of neurons at Broca or Wernicke areas possessing methylated histones that coalesce remote from the cell nucleus, perhaps on a stretch of rough endoplasmic reticulum in neurons at the fourth layer of the Broca-Wernicke axis of the neocortex.

RE: Francis Crick and the purpose of the claustrum. Perhaps the claustrum mixes audio visual signals for language perception.

Addendum #2

The “ Tub-O-Balls” analogy for available theoretical space in a field of study. A tub is the operative paradigm in a field of study:  bioscience, anthropology, quantum physics or cosmology. The balls of varying sizes are the men and women who have asserted the nature of the operative paradigm. The bigger the ball, the closer to the foundational idea. There is only room for one basketball per tub. Place one basketball in the tub and the tub is full of basketballs but there is room for tennis balls. Founding fathers are “basketballs” : Darwin, Saussure, Freud, Marx, F.L. Wright. First generation disciples are “tennis balls”: Mendel, Levi-Strauss, Jung, Lenin, Le Corbusier, Mies, Gropius. Tennis balls must work very long and hard with obsession often matching that of basketballs, formulating their own theories that share the basketball idea. A tennis ball is an interpreter of a big idea, not its generator.  Each tennis ball spawns a dozen ping pong balls - unquestioning true believers who would have their families sit on uncomfortable modern furniture paying homage to the tennis ball ( see: noted author Donald Barthelme,Jr. - son of a rabid Modern architect, Barthelme, Sr. who designed a Modern home for his family and filled it with uncomfortable Modern furniture). Ping pong balls can do very big work with vast influence -  see: Noam Chomsky. Ping pong balls don’t shift paradigms they flesh them out.  Every basketball attracts an army of ping pong balls. In Modern linguistics Saussure is the basketball, Jakobson, Bloomfield and Zellig Harris are tennis balls. Noam Chomsky is a ping pong ball, albeit a broadly influential one. PhD students are grains of sand filling remaining interstitial tub-space. When the tub is full someone turns it upside down, empties the tub and the process begins again with a new basketball. The overturning tub causes much discomfort as suddenly old-fashioned balls fly off to become particles in the rings of Saturn.

Note: If Saussure is the basketball in the tub of linguistics then Charles Sanders Peirce is the tub itself.

Addendum #3 - Academic-Intellectual tricks n’ tropes, hairy heuristics, devious devices employed in constructing an argument ( as noted in the work of Stephen J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, CLaude Levi-Strauss and others).

    1. Smokescreen at deep dive ( usually more than a few chapters)-  Levi-Strauss dives into totemic naming strategies of indigenous people. Stephen Jay Gould dives into benthic mollusks of the Caribbean. These dives are filled with neologisms, jargon, qualifiers, wild speculation, enthusiastically founded-boldly asserted notions: orbiting Russell’s Teapots.
    2. Cohort Clash: Similar to “Squid Rasslin” ( see: #4) but person-specific as researchers in the field under examination are named and held up to faux-ish scrutiny or exaggerated scrutiny. Author taking an opportunity to name a name and cite a study as the web must be woven from hundreds of these minor clashes. There is always one degree or another of disagreement,disparagement, argument, diminishment for this work that is fogged, fuzzy, inaccurate, narrow-minded,  w h a t e v e r  might possibly add substance to author’s bold assertion. The Key clash is saved for end of book with whomever is the reigning thinker in one’s field. The Key Clash is often a redirected  Basketball clash with oedipal overtones. The Basketball is too ensconced in his lofty perch for assault, though he deserves it mightily. It makes one look like a child with authority issues, a yapping small dog, to in any way disparage the shopworn, moldy, crumbling but bronzed ideas of the grand old man of one’s field but it is always open season on one’s peers for the second tier tennis balls entertaining visions of nothing but net..
    3. Spiderwebbing: Sitting in one’s office surrounded by a tall stack of scientific papers from respected journals, books by colleagues that are used to construct the thesis from these filaments from different cultures primitive and modern from around the world, catalogued and analyzed in the work of notable researchers.  Example: Levi-Strauss compares an extinct North American tribe, the Algonquin ( extinct in the sense of their pre-19th century myth and ritual) to a fully functioning remote mountain tribe in New Guinea as he sits in his swivel chair integrating vastly disparate people into a single theory.


  • Squid Rasslin’ From feature film “Ed Wood” in which Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi wades into a dark forbidding swamp ( pool of shallow water on a movie set) and proceeds to do fierce “battle” with a large rubber cephalopod. The “battle” is, of course, cooked up in Lugosi’s physical  imagination as he fights for his life flinging tentacles here and there, the inanimate “squid” being vigorously manhandled,  is oblivious to any battle. See: “In The Ring” an essay on rasslin’ in Mythologies - Roland Barthes - 1957
  • MOHARE’(MO-Missouri HA-nd RE-ading): A self contained system of fabricated “reason” and analysis of a group  of relationships with its own peculiar logic, diagrammatic analysis, jargon, neologisms and meaning system. The notion of money would be MOHARE’ if it were not so well established. Astrology is a form of MOHARE’ as is Psychotherapy, Quantum Physics and Darwinian Evolution. ( not a creationist!)  Note: New MOHARE’ like Scientology is derided, old, established  MOHARE’, like Christianity is the stuff of large wars.
  • Guru-Tagging: Peppering text with off- the-wall use of the vocabulary, concepts and the name of the conceptual father of one’s profession. In the case of Levi-Strauss in The Savage MInd, the guru often tagged is Saussure. Noam Chomsky rarely Guru-tags leaving himself available to be tagged as the guru of his field, though he has at least three generations of significant precursors back to genuine Basketball of Modern linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure. See: Chomsky’s antecedents: Harris, Bloomfield, Jakobson (the whole Prague School), Barthes and Saussure none of whom he credits when he, Chomsky, is referred to as the “Father of Modern Linguistics”. Chomsky’s contributions are broad and vastly influential but they are not foundational. Calling Chomsky the “Father of Linguistics” is like calling James Watson or Richard Dawkins the “Father of Evolution”. Always tackle the biggest lion in the field at the end of the book after setting countless traps throughout with every reference and notion. For Levi-Strauss this lion was Jean Paul Sartre, for Stephen Jay Gould it was Richard Dawkins. Much ink is spent on the big lions. Chomsky proposed the grammatical nature of part of this waffle iron grid but the appliance itself is Saussure and probably Charles Sanders Peirce.
  • Ballooning: To take a minor phenomenon like the totemic assignation of tribal names and expand it into the core of an important study of mankind and along the way inventing terms and discovering relationships that may or may not exist in the minds of those under the ethnologist’s  Western gaze. One “balloons” when there is a bit of evidence on this particular topic in 1,000 papers on indigenous cultures from around the world, a robust, if slender, thread of evidence, Levi-Strauss inflates tribal naming patterns into a large balloon  demonstrating his grasp of all things Saussure re: myth, symbol, totemism, signs, signifiers and signified, his secret Sauss. Levi-Strauss’ obsession with naming is an assertion of his Saussiness, gems from his deep synchronic dive spread out like cowrie shells on a Melanesian frond mat. These chapters on naming protocols from indigenous tribes from around the world seem, not so much for our knowledge, as Levi-Strauss demonstrating his comprehension and inspiration by the ideas of Saussure. It is a clubby insider gesture from one French intellectual to his brethren, Jean Paul Sartre and Roland Barthes.



3:26 pm May 7, 2015