Encyclopedia > Chain letter

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Chain letter

A typical chain letter will consist of a message which attempts to induce the recipient to make a number of copies of the letter and then pass them on to two or more new recipients. A chain letter can be considered a type of meme, a self-replicating piece of information that uses a human host to distribute copies of itself. Common methods used by chain letters include emotionally manipulative stories, get-rich-quick pyramid schemes, and the exploitation of superstition to threaten the recipient with bad luck if he or she "breaks the chain."

Because of this, recipients of such letters are generally advised to ignore the letter and destroy it.

Chain letters are capable of evolution, generally improving their ability to convince their hosts to replicate them over time. This sometimes occurs through deliberate modification of the chain letter by a recipient, or sometimes through purely accidental imperfect copying (mutation).

With the development of e-mail and the Internet, chain letters have become much more common and quick to spread than when they were transmitted purely by physical mail.

See also: make money fast, Amish Friendship Bread (a culinary version of a chain letter).

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