Thought Contagion in the Dynamics of Mass Conflict by Aaron Lynch

“Abstract:
The evolutionary contagion of self-spreading ideas, or thought contagions, is introduced and applied to major topics in conflict dynamics. Beliefs are found to self-propagate by some surprising means, such as inducing evangelism, by manipulating imitation rates, by intimidating adherents of alternative ideas into silence, by refutation resistance, and by deterring dropouts. Even fairly subtle differences in the transmissivity, receptivity, and longevity of ideas may compound into large and intense ideological movements. Examples are found in religious warfare, Nazism, terrorism, US unilateralism, and the ideologies behind the September 11, 2001 event. The effect of thought contagions on the proliferation and possible use of nuclear weapons is also discussed. The paper concludes that thought contagion analysis offers important new insights into the dynamics of mass conflict, as well as potential strategies in reducing mass conflict.”

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