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Master's Thesis

The results of the Research

The hypothesis which this study would like to confirm is that the mentioned selection criteria will have a clear correlation with the success rate or fitness of the hoaxes. Criteria such as the ones that are mentioned in the research are thought to influence the spreading of the hoax.

The results of the survey as done by the expert in the field of memetics did not confirm the importance of all criteria. Instead three criteria stood out from the rest. Novelty, with a positive correlation of +0.5 and, even more so, benefit with a positive correlation of +0.8 seem to be the most important criteria. Simplicity has the lowest correlation with -0.6 to the fitness of the meme in both Search Engines and Usenet newsgroups and -0.53 when the correlation is measured with only the search engines. This means that if a hoax is perceived as being very simple, it will not reach a high degree of spreading.

The hypothesis of this thesis was that all selection criteria will have a clear correlation with the degree of fitness of the different hoaxes. After considering the results of both surveys, it is found that indeed there is a correlation, although it is not the positive correlation that was expected. Only two of the six criteria have a strong positive correlation with the success rate of the hoaxes. The other criteria are found to have a negative correlation, varying from very light (cf. proselytism) to a very strong negative correlation (e.g. simplicity). To validate these results and to make sure that they have not been caused because of a poor understanding of the selection criteria, the results were compared to those of an authority figure in the field of memetics. We see that this expert’s scores have the same tendency and the same positive and negative correlations. Therefore the results can not be explained with this reasoning.

This research has shown that there is a wide variety in the ways the hoaxes use the criteria. Every hoax has found its own niche in the brains of several new hosts and on the Internet. Therefore all hoaxes here have already gone through the selection procedures that have been measured. The popularity of these hoaxes is different and the analysis of every single criterion that was measured in this survey has shed a new light on the ways in which hoaxes have adapted to the criteria in order to become as good or ‘as fit’ as possible.

The wide variance in techniques shows how exactly the hoaxes became successful. The importance of finding these techniques is arguably even greater than the failure to make a classification of the criteria. After all, it has become clear now that the criteria are very important but that the way in which the hoaxes use the different criteria has even more influence on their success rate.

For a more elaborate explication and analization of each criterium, please download the full thesis.

©2006 Klaas Chielens