Self Reference

A second key factor that can make a belief more likely to become a thought virus, is when it becomes circular or self referenced. A self referenced process is one that refers back to, or operates upon itself. Self-referenced, or self-organizing, social and psychological systems construct their own reality by applying internally generated principles and rules. An example of a 'self referenced' perception would be standing in between two mirrors and seeing the reflection of one mirror in the other mirror, creating the experience of "watching oneself watch oneself."

Self referenced processes can be contrasted with those that are externally referenced. Externally referenced processes operate in response to rules and feedback that primarily come from outside, or external to, the process or system. Healthy systems generally have a balance of 'self reference' and 'external reference'(or 'other' reference). When a system or process is exclusively self referenced, it can produce pathologies and paradoxes. People who are exclusively internally referenced, for instance, can seem to be self-centered or arrogant. Cancer is a biological example of a system (or part of a system) that has become too self referenced. It grows and spreads to a point that is destructive to the surrounding system.

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