Why Things “Go Viral”

September 13, 2010 |  by

How does a song – say Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” – go viral?

Replicator theory says that as people imitate (sing it), it makes a copy in their brain. First it’s in my brain, now it’s in yours. But there’s another way to look at it – that there’s something in “Alejandro” that people really want: a good rhythm, a taste of passion, an escape from everyday, etc..

This makes it attractive to us.

Now it gets interesting. Thomas Lewis writes in A General Theory of Love that neural networks in our brains – called Attractors – are activated by experiences (songs, people) that resonate with our emotions and desires. In other words, if I have an Attractor for “wanting passion,” it might be activated (just a bit) by “Alejandro.” I’ll like the song – because it gives me what I want.

What’s interesting is that activation of Attractors has nothing to do with copying. The patterns – the neural networks – are already there. They’re part of our consciousness – part of us.

What we call replicators are just activators – of us.


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