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A meme is "an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."

A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures
Selection
In the context of evolution, certain traits or alleles of genes segregating within a population may be subject to selection. Under selection, individuals with advantageous or "adaptive" traits tend to be more successful than their peers reproductively—meaning they contribute more offspring to the...

.

The word 'meme' is a shortening (modeled on 'gene') of 'mimeme' (from Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 μίμημα míːmɛːma mīmēma, "something imitated", from μιμεῖσθαι mimeisthai, "to imitate", from μῖμος mimos "mime") and it was coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 in The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the...

(1976) as a concept for discussion of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

ary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catch-phrases, fashion and the technology of building arches.

Advocates of the meme idea say that memes may evolve by natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation
Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....

, mutation
Mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

, competition
Competition
Competition is a contest between individuals, groups, animals, etc. for territory, a niche, or a location of resources. It arises whenever two and only two strive for a goal which cannot be shared. Competition occurs naturally between living organisms which co-exist in the same environment. For...

 and inheritance
Heredity
Heredity is the passing of traits to offspring . This is the process by which an offspring cell or organism acquires or becomes predisposed to the characteristics of its parent cell or organism. Through heredity, variations exhibited by individuals can accumulate and cause some species to evolve...

, each of which influence a meme's reproductive success.

Memes spread through the behaviors that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate
Fecundity
Fecundity, derived from the word fecund, generally refers to the ability to reproduce. In demography, fecundity is the potential reproductive capacity of an individual or population. In biology, the definition is more equivalent to fertility, or the actual reproductive rate of an organism or...

 less prolifically may become extinct
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

, while others may survive, spread and (for better or for worse) mutate
Mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success. Some memes may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.

A field of study called memetics
Memetics
Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. It purports to be an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. A meme, analogous to a gene, is essentially a "unit of...

 arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that scholarship can examine memes empirically. Developments in neuroimaging
Functional neuroimaging
Functional neuroimaging is the use of neuroimaging technology to measure an aspect of brain function, often with a view to understanding the relationship between activity in certain brain areas and specific mental functions...

 may however make empirical
Empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

 study possible. Some commentators question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units.

Origins


Max Stirner
Max Stirner
Johann Kaspar Schmidt , better known as Max Stirner , was a German philosopher, who ranks as one of the literary fathers of nihilism, existentialism, post-modernism and anarchism, especially of individualist anarchism...

's 1844 The Ego and Its Own
The Ego and Its Own
The Ego and Its Own is a philosophical work by German philosopher Max Stirner . This work was first published in 1845, although with a stated publication date of "1844" to confuse the Prussian censors.-Content:...

puts forth the idea that the individual is dominated by illusory concepts ('fixed ideas' or 'spooks'), which can be shaken and undermined by each individual, though he does not use the term meme for this. He offers examples such as nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 and religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

.

Historically, the notion of a unit of social evolution
Social evolution
Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor...

, and a similar term (from Greek μνήμη mneme, “memory”), first appeared in 1904 in a work by the German Lamarckist
Lamarckism
Lamarckism is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring . It is named after the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck , who incorporated the action of soft inheritance into his evolutionary theories...

 biologist
Biologist
A biologist is a scientist devoted to and producing results in biology through the study of life. Typically biologists study organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work...

 Richard Semon
Richard Semon
Richard Wolfgang Semon was a German zoologist and evolutionary biologist, who believed in the inheritance of acquired characters and applied this to social evolution....

 titled Die Mnemischen Empfindungen in ihren Beziehungen zu den Originalempfindungen (loosely translatable as “Memory-feelings in relation to original feelings”). According to the OED, the word mneme appears in English in 1921 in L. Simon's translation of Semon's book: The Mneme.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 in "The Analysis of Mind" (1921) summarizes Semon's work and furthers its application to the analysis of memory. Discussion of mnemes plays a central role in Russell's book, but he does not explicitly make comparisons to the gene concept.

Laurent noted the use of the term mneme in Maurice Maeterlinck
Maurice Maeterlinck
Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck, also called Comte Maeterlinck from 1932, was a Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist who wrote in French. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life...

's The Life of the White Ant (1926), and has highlighted similarities to Dawkins' concept.

The analogy between culturally transmitted information and genetically transmitted information was perceived clearly enough by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza is an Italian population geneticist born in Genoa, who has been a professor at Stanford University since 1970 .-Books:...

 and Marcus W. Feldman to allow them to formulate and analyze quantitative models of cultural transmission and selection. They published a series of papers beginning in 1973.

The word meme originated with Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the...

. To emphasize commonality with gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s, Dawkins coined the term "meme" by shortening "mimeme", which derives from the Greek word mimema ("something imitated").

Dawkins states that he did not know of the "mneme", and said that he wanted "a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'". Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis
Molecular genetics
Molecular genetics is the field of biology and genetics that studies the structure and function of genes at a molecular level. The field studies how the genes are transferred from generation to generation. Molecular genetics employs the methods of genetics and molecular biology...

 of genetics
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

, but only on the existence of a self-replicating
Self-replication
Self-replication is any behavior of a dynamical system that yields construction of an identical copy of that dynamical system. Biological cells, given suitable environments, reproduce by cell division. During cell division, DNA is replicated and can be transmitted to offspring during reproduction...

 unit of transmission – in the case of biological evolution, the gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior
Human behavior
Human behavior refers to the range of behaviors exhibited by humans and which are influenced by culture, attitudes, emotions, values, ethics, authority, rapport, hypnosis, persuasion, coercion and/or genetics....

 and cultural evolution.

Concept


Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator
Self-replication
Self-replication is any behavior of a dynamical system that yields construction of an identical copy of that dynamical system. Biological cells, given suitable environments, reproduce by cell division. During cell division, DNA is replicated and can be transmitted to offspring during reproduction...

. He hypothesised that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behaviour. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

.

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. Memes, analogously to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; memes which are good at getting themselves copied tend to spread and remain, whereas the less good ones have a higher probability of being ignored and forgotten. Thus "better" memes are selected. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics
Memetics
Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. It purports to be an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. A meme, analogous to a gene, is essentially a "unit of...

. In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission does not necessarily require a physical medium, unlike genetic transmission.

Transmission


Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means). Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell, CM is a Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. He is currently based in New York City and has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996...

 wrote, "A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus--that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects."
Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time. Memes spread by the behaviors that they generate in their hosts. Imitation
Imitation
Imitation is an advanced behavior whereby an individual observes and replicates another's. The word can be applied in many contexts, ranging from animal training to international politics.-Anthropology and social sciences:...

 counts as an important characteristic in the propagation of memes. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed
Observation
Observation is either an activity of a living being, such as a human, consisting of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of data using scientific instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during this activity...

 behaviour of another individual, but memes may transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. McNamara has suggested that memes can be thereby classified as either internal or external memes, (i-memes or e-memes). Researchers have observed memetic copying in just a few species on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, including hominid
Hominidae
The Hominidae or include them .), as the term is used here, form a taxonomic family, including four extant genera: chimpanzees , gorillas , humans , and orangutans ....

s, dolphin
Dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

s and bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s (that learn how to sing
Singing
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. One who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music known as songs that can be sung either with or without accompaniment by musical instruments...

 by imitating their parent
Parent
A parent is a caretaker of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is of a child . Children can have one or more parents, but they must have two biological parents. Biological parents consist of the male who sired the child and the female who gave birth to the child...

s or neighbors).

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions
Infectious disease
Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, contagious diseases or transmissible diseases comprise clinically evident illness resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism...

. Social contagions such as fads
Bandwagon effect
The bandwagon effect is a well documented form of groupthink in behavioral science and has many applications. The general rule is that conduct or beliefs spread among people, as fads and trends clearly do, with "the probability of any individual adopting it increasing with the proportion who have...

, hysteria
Hysterical contagion
Hysterical contagion occurs when a group of people show signs of a physical problem or illness, when in reality there are psychological and social forces at work....

, copycat crime, and copycat suicide
Copycat suicide
A copycat suicide is defined as an emulation of another suicide that the person attempting suicide knows about either from local knowledge or due to accounts or depictions of the original suicide on television and in other media....

 exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.

Aaron Lynch
Aaron Lynch
Aaron Lynch was an American writer, best known for his book Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society.-Biography:...

 described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or "thought contagion":
  1. Quantity of parenthood: an idea that influences the number of children one has. Children respond particularly receptively to the ideas of their parents, and thus ideas that directly or indirectly encourage a higher birthrate will replicate themselves at a higher rate than those that discourage higher birthrates.
  2. Efficiency of parenthood: an idea that increases the proportion of children who will adopt ideas of their parents. Cultural separatism
    Separatism
    Separatism is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession, separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy...

     exemplifies one practice in which one can expect a higher rate of meme-replication — because the meme for separation creates a barrier from exposure to competing ideas.
  3. Proselytic: ideas generally passed to others beyond one's own children. Ideas that encourage the proselytism
    Proselytism
    Proselytizing is the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος...

     of a meme, as seen in many religious or political movements, can replicate memes horizontally through a given generation, spreading more rapidly than parent-to-child meme-transmissions do.
  4. Preservational: ideas that influence those that hold them to continue to hold them for a long time. Ideas that encourage longevity in their hosts, or leave their hosts particularly resistant to abandoning or replacing these ideas, enhance the preservability of memes and afford protection from the competition or proselytism of other memes.
  5. Adversative: ideas that influence those that hold them to attack or sabotage competing ideas and/or those that hold them. Adversative replication can give an advantage in meme transmission when the meme itself encourages aggression against other memes.
  6. Cognitive: ideas perceived as cogent by most in the population who encounter them. Cognitively transmitted memes depend heavily on a cluster of other ideas and cognitive traits already widely held in the population, and thus usually spread more passively than other forms of meme transmission. Memes spread in cognitive transmission do not count as self-replicating.
  7. Motivational: ideas that people adopt because they perceive some self-interest in adopting them. Strictly speaking, motivationally transmitted memes do not self-propagate, but this mode of transmission often occurs in association with memes self-replicated in the efficiency parental, proselytic and preservational modes.

Memes as discrete units


Richard Dawkins initially defined meme as a noun that "conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation". John S. Wilkins retained the notion of meme as a kernel of cultural imitation while emphasizing the meme's evolutionary aspect, defining the meme as "the least unit of sociocultural information relative to a selection process that has favourable or unfavourable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change." The meme as a unit provides a convenient means of discussing "a piece of thought copied from person to person", regardless if that thought contains others inside it, or forms part of a larger meme. A meme could consist of a single word, or a meme could consist of the entire speech in which that word first occurred. This forms an analogy to the idea of a gene as a single unit of self-replicating information found on the self-replicating chromosome
Chromosome
A chromosome is an organized structure of DNA and protein found in cells. It is a single piece of coiled DNA containing many genes, regulatory elements and other nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also contain DNA-bound proteins, which serve to package the DNA and control its functions.Chromosomes...

.

While the identification of memes as "units" conveys their nature to replicate as discrete, indivisible entities, it does not imply that thoughts somehow become quantized
Quantization (physics)
In physics, quantization is the process of explaining a classical understanding of physical phenomena in terms of a newer understanding known as "quantum mechanics". It is a procedure for constructing a quantum field theory starting from a classical field theory. This is a generalization of the...

 or that "atom
Atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

ic" ideas exist that cannot be dissected into smaller pieces. A meme has no given size. Susan Blackmore
Susan Blackmore
Susan Jane Blackmore is an English freelance writer, lecturer, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, perhaps best known for her book The Meme Machine.-Career:...

 writes that melodies from Beethoven's symphonies are commonly used to illustrate the difficulty involved in delimiting memes as discrete units. She notes that while the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony  form a meme widely replicated as an independent unit, one can regard the entire symphony as a single meme as well.

The inability to pin an idea or cultural feature to quantifiable key units is widely acknowledge as a problem for memetics. It has been argued however that the traces of memetic processing can be quantified utilizing neuroimaging techniques which measure changes in the connectivity profiles between brain regions." Blackmore meets such criticism by stating that memes compare with genes in this respect: that while a gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

 has no particular size, nor can we ascribe every phenotypic
Phenotype
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

 feature directly to a particular gene, it has value because it encapsulates that key unit of inherited expression subject to evolutionary pressures. To illustrate, she notes evolution selects for the gene for features such as eye color; it does not select for the individual nucleotide in a strand of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

. Memes play a comparable role in understanding the evolution of imitated behaviors.

The 1981 book Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles J. Lumsden
Charles J. Lumsden
Charles J. Lumsden is a Canadian biologist in the Department of Medicine and Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto. He has been an early proponent of sociobiology, looking to our genetic nature to supplement culture in describing what makes us human. He wrote two influential books in...

 and E. O. Wilson
E. O. Wilson
Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher , theorist , naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants....

 proposed the theory that genes and culture co-evolve, and that the fundamental biological units of culture must correspond to neuronal networks that function as nodes of semantic memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

. They coined their own term, "culturgen
Culturgen
Culturgen is a term coined in 1980 by two American scientists, the biomathematician Charles J. Lumsden and thesociobiologist E. O. Wilson, to denote a hypothetical 'unit' of culture, in their controversial attempt to analyse cultural evolution by using techniques borrowed from population genetics,...

", which did not catch on. Coauthor Wilson later acknowledged the term meme as the best label for the fundamental unit of cultural inheritance in his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge is a 1998 book by biologist E. O. Wilson. In this book, Wilson discusses methods that have been used to unite the sciences and might in the future unite them with the humanities...

, which elaborates upon the fundamental role of memes in unifying the natural
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 and social sciences
Social sciences
Social science is the field of study concerned with society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences usually exclusive of the administrative or managerial sciences...

.

Evolutionary influences on memes


Richard Dawkins noted the three conditions that must exist for evolution to occur:
  1. variation, or the introduction of new change to existing elements;
  2. heredity or replication, or the capacity to create copies of elements;
  3. differential "fitness", or the opportunity for one element to be more or less suited to the environment than another.


Dawkins emphasizes that the process of evolution naturally occurs whenever these conditions co-exist, and that evolution does not apply only to organic elements such as genes. He regards memes as also having the properties necessary for evolution, and thus sees meme evolution as not simply analogous to genetic evolution, but as a real phenomenon subject to the laws of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

. Dawkins noted that as various ideas pass from one generation
Generation
Generation , also known as procreation in biological sciences, is the act of producing offspring....

 to the next, they may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas, or influence the survival of the ideas themselves. For example, a certain culture may develop unique designs and methods of tool
Tool
A tool is a device that can be used to produce an item or achieve a task, but that is not consumed in the process. Informally the word is also used to describe a procedure or process with a specific purpose. Tools that are used in particular fields or activities may have different designations such...

-making that give it a competitive advantage over another culture. Each tool-design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

 in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme's function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations. In keeping with the thesis that in evolution one can regard organisms simply as suitable "hosts" for reproducing genes, Dawkins argues that one can view people as "hosts" for replicating memes. Consequently, a successful meme may or may not need to provide any benefit to its host.

Unlike genetic evolution, memetic evolution can show both Darwinian
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and Lamarckian
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck , often known simply as Lamarck, was a French naturalist...

 traits. Cultural memes will have the characteristic of Lamarckian inheritance when a host aspires to replicate the given meme through inference rather than by exactly copying it. Take for example the case of the transmission of a simple skill such as hammering a nail, a skill that a learner imitates from watching a demonstration without necessarily imitating every discrete movement modeled by the teacher in the demonstration, stroke for stroke. Susan Blackmore distinguishes the difference between the two modes of inheritance in the evolution of memes, characterizing the Darwinian mode as "copying the instructions" and the Lamarckian as "copying the product."

Clusters of memes, or memeplex
Memeplex
Much of the study of memes focuses on groups of memes called meme complexes, or "memeplexes." Like the gene complexes found in biology, memeplexes are groups of memes that are often found present in the same individual. Applying the theory of Universal Darwinism, memeplexes group together because...

es
(also known as meme complexes or as memecomplexes), such as cultural or political doctrines and systems, may also play a part in the acceptance of new memes. Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and coadapt. Memes that fit within a successful memeplex may gain acceptance by "piggybacking" on the success of the memeplex.
As an example, John D. Gottsch discusses the transmission, mutation and selection of religious memeplexes and the theistic memes contained. Theistic memes discussed include the "prohibition of aberrant sexual practices such as incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, and religious prostitution", which may have increased vertical transmission of the parent religious memeplex. Similar memes are thereby included in the majority of religious memeplexes, and harden over time; they become an "inviolable canon" or set of dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

s, eventually finding their way into secular law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

. This could also be referred to as the propagation of a taboo
Taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

.

Memetics


The discipline of memetics, which dates from the mid 1980s, provides an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer
Information transfer
In telecommunications, information transfer is the process of moving messages containing user information from a source to a sink.Note: The information transfer rate may or may not be equal to the transmission modulation rate.-See also:...

 based on the concept of the meme. Memeticists have proposed that just as memes function analogously to gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s, memetics functions analogously to genetics
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

. Memetics attempts to apply conventional scientific methods (such as those used in population genetics
Population genetics
Population genetics is the study of allele frequency distribution and change under the influence of the four main evolutionary processes: natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and gene flow. It also takes into account the factors of recombination, population subdivision and population...

 and epidemiology
Epidemiology
Epidemiology is the study of health-event, health-characteristic, or health-determinant patterns in a population. It is the cornerstone method of public health research, and helps inform policy decisions and evidence-based medicine by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive...

) to explain existing patterns and transmission of cultural
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 ideas.

Principal criticisms of memetics include the claim that memetics ignores established advances in other fields of cultural study, such as sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation,...

, cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology exploring internal mental processes.It is the study of how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems.Cognitive psychology differs from previous psychological approaches in two key ways....

, and social psychology
Social psychology
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all...

. Questions remain whether or not the meme concept counts as a validly disprovable
Philosophy of science
The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, methods and implications of science. It is also concerned with the use and merit of science and sometimes overlaps metaphysics and epistemology by exploring whether scientific results are actually a study of truth...

 scientific theory. This view regards memetics as a theory in its infancy: a protoscience
Protoscience
In the philosophy of science, a protoscience is an area of scientific endeavor that is in the process of becoming established. Protoscience is distinguished from pseudoscience by its standard practices of good science, such as a willingness to be disproven by new evidence, or to be replaced by a...

 to proponents, or a pseudoscience
Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

 to some detractors.

Criticism of meme theory


An objection to the study of the evolution of memes in genetic terms (although not to the existence of memes) involves a perceived gap in the gene/meme analogy: the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection-pressures neither too great nor too small in relation to mutation-rates. There seems no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes.

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a "pseudoscientific
Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

 dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

" and "a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness
Consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

 and cultural evolution
Sociocultural evolution
Sociocultural evolution is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies have changed over time...

". As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a "code script" for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.

British political philosopher John Gray has characterized Dawkins' memetic theory of religion as "nonsense" and "not even a theory... the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors", comparable to Intelligent Design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 in its value as a science.

Another critique comes from semiotic theorists such as Deacon and Kull This view regards the concept of "meme" as a primitivized concept of "sign"
Sign (semiotics)
A sign is understood as a discrete unit of meaning in semiotics. It is defined as "something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity" It includes words, images, gestures, scents, tastes, textures, sounds – essentially all of the ways in which information can be...

. The meme is thus described in memetics as a sign lacking a triadic nature. Semioticians can regard a meme as a "degenerate" sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.

Fracchia and Lewontin regard memetics as reductionist and inadequate.

Potential lack of philosophical depth


In his chapter titled "Truth" published in the Encyclopedia of Phenomenology, Dieter Lohmar questions the memeticists' reduction
Reductionism
Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can...

 of the highly complex body of ideas (such as religion, politics, war, justice, and science itself) to a putatively one-dimensional series of memes. He sees memes as an abstraction
Abstraction
Abstraction is a process by which higher concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal concepts, first principles, or other methods....

 and such a reduction as failing to produce greater understanding of those ideas. The highly interconnected, multi-layering of ideas resists memetic simplification to an atomic or molecular form; as does the fact that each of our lives
Personal life
Personal life is the course of an individual's life, especially when viewed as the sum of personal choices contributing to one's personal identity. It is a common notion in modern existence—although more so in more prosperous parts of the world such as Western Europe and North America...

 remains fully enmeshed and involved in such "memes". Lohmar argues that one cannot view memes through a microscope in the way one can detect genes. The leveling-off of all such interesting "memes" down to some neutralized molecular "substance" such as "meme-substance" introduces a bias toward "scientism
Scientism
Scientism refers to a belief in the universal applicability of the systematic methods and approach of science, especially the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints...

" and abandons the very essence of what makes ideas interesting, richly available, and worth studying.

Applications


Opinions differ as to how best to apply the concept of memes within a "proper" disciplinary framework. One view sees memes as providing a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view (such as Susan Blackmore
Susan Blackmore
Susan Jane Blackmore is an English freelance writer, lecturer, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, perhaps best known for her book The Meme Machine.-Career:...

 and Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett
Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

) argue that considering cultural developments from a meme's-eye view—as if memes themselves respond to pressure to maximise their own replication and survival—can lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time. Others such as Bruce Edmonds and Robert Aunger have focused on the need to provide an empirical grounding for memetics to become a useful and respected scientific discipline.
A third approach, described as "radical memetics", seeks to place memes at the centre of a materialistic
Eliminative materialism
Eliminative materialism is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Its primary claim is that people's common-sense understanding of the mind is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist...

 theory of mind
Theory of mind
Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own...

 and of personal identity.

Prominent researchers in evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

 and anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, including Scott Atran
Scott Atran
Scott Atran is an American and French anthropologist.-Education and early career:Atran was born in New York City in 1952 and he received his PhD in anthropology from Columbia University. While a student at Columbia, he became assistant to anthropologist Margaret Mead at the American Museum of...

, Dan Sperber
Dan Sperber
Dan Sperber is a French social and cognitive scientist. His most influential work has been in the fields of cognitive anthropology and linguistic pragmatics: developing, with British psychologist Deirdre Wilson, relevance theory in the latter; and an approach to cultural evolution known as the...

, Pascal Boyer
Pascal Boyer
Pascal Boyer is a French anthropologist, and Henry Luce Professor of Individual and Collective Memory at Washington University in St. Louis.He is a Guggenheim Fellow.-Work:...

, John Tooby
John Tooby
John Tooby is an American anthropologist, who, together with psychologist wife Leda Cosmides, helped pioneer the field of evolutionary psychology....

 and others, argue the possibility of incompatibility between modularity of mind
Modularity of mind
Modularity of mind is the notion that a mind may, at least in part, be composed of separate innate structures which have established evolutionarily developed functional purposes...

 and memetics. In their view, minds structure certain communicable aspects of the ideas produced, and these communicable aspects generally trigger or elicit ideas in other minds through inference (to relatively rich structures generated from often low-fidelity input) and not high-fidelity replication or imitation. Atran discusses communication involving religious beliefs as a case in point. In one set of experiments he asked religious people to write down on a piece of paper the meanings of the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

. Despite the subjects' own expectations of consensus, interpretations of the commandments showed wide ranges of variation, with little evidence of consensus. In another experiment, subjects with autism and subjects without autism interpreted ideological and religious sayings (for example, "Let a thousand flowers bloom" or "To everything there is a season"). People with autism showed a significant tendency to closely paraphrase and repeat content from the original statement (for example: "Don't cut flowers before they bloom"). Controls tended to infer a wider range of cultural meanings with little replicated content (for example: "Go with the flow" or "Everyone should have equal opportunity"). Only the subjects with autism—who lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mind
Theory of mind
Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own...

—came close to functioning as "meme machines".

In his book The Robot's Rebellion, Stanovich
Keith Stanovich
Keith E. Stanovich is the Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, University of Toronto. His research areas are the psychology of reasoning and the psychology of reading...

 uses the memes and memeplex concepts to describe a program of cognitive reform that he refers to as a "rebellion". Specifically, Stanovich argues that the use of memes as a descriptor for cultural units is beneficial because it serves to emphasize transmission and acquisition properties that parallel the study of epidemiology
Epidemiology
Epidemiology is the study of health-event, health-characteristic, or health-determinant patterns in a population. It is the cornerstone method of public health research, and helps inform policy decisions and evidence-based medicine by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive...

. These properties make salient the sometimes parasitic nature of acquired memes, and as a result individuals should be motivated to reflectively acquire memes using what he calls a "Neurathian bootstrap
Neurathian bootstrap
The Neurathian bootstrap is based on a metaphor Otto Neurath used to describe a philosophy of science. The metaphor is based on a quote from Quine's writings in Word and Object:...

" process.

Religion


Although social scientists such as Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 sought to understand and explain religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.
He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.

In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore
Susan Blackmore
Susan Jane Blackmore is an English freelance writer, lecturer, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, perhaps best known for her book The Meme Machine.-Career:...

 regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

 over evidence
Evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

 from everyday experience or reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism
Altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

 with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.

Aaron Lynch
Aaron Lynch
Aaron Lynch was an American writer, best known for his book Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society.-Biography:...

 attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism
Proselytism
Proselytizing is the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος...

. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy
Apostasy
Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

, for instance, or demonizing infidels
Infidels
Infidels is singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's 22nd studio album, released by Columbia Records in October 1983.Produced by Mark Knopfler and Dylan himself, Infidels is seen as his return to secular music, following a conversion to Christianity and three evangelical, gospel records...

. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

 to believers and threat of hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus
Crucifixion of Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus and his ensuing death is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross...

 in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior
Redeemer (Christianity)
In Christian theology, Jesus is sometimes referred to as a Redeemer. This refers to the salvation he is believed to have accomplished, and is based on the metaphor of redemption, or "buying back". Although the New Testament does not use the title "Redeemer", the word "redemption" is used in several...

 for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

s, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross
Christian cross
The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the best-known religious symbol of Christianity...

 in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.

Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty , then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional "modernization" and "supply side" theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.

Memetic explanations of racism


In Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Jack Balkin
Jack Balkin
Jack M. Balkin is an American legal scholar. He is the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School...

 argued that memetic processes can explain many of the most familiar features of ideological
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 thought. His theory of "cultural software" maintained that memes form narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

s, networks of cultural associations, metaphoric and metonymic
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

 models, and a variety of different mental structures. Balkin maintains that the same structures used to generate ideas about free speech or free markets also serve to generate racist beliefs. To Balkin, whether memes become harmful or maladaptive depends on the environmental context in which they exist rather than in any special source or manner to their origination. Balkin describes racist beliefs as "fantasy" memes that become harmful or unjust "ideologies" when diverse peoples come together, as through trade or competition.

Internet culture


The term "Internet meme" refers to a catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

, largely through Internet-based email
Email
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

, blog
Blog
A blog is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in...

s, forums
Internet forum
An Internet forum, or message board, is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are at least temporarily archived...

, Imageboard
Imageboard
An imageboard or image board is a type of Internet forum that revolves around the posting of images. The first imageboards were created in Japan, and many English-language imageboards today are centered around Japanese culture...

s, social networking sites and instant messaging
Instant messaging
Instant Messaging is a form of real-time direct text-based chatting communication in push mode between two or more people using personal computers or other devices, along with shared clients. The user's text is conveyed over a network, such as the Internet...

.

Meme maps


One technique of meme mapping represents the evolution and transmission of a meme across time and space. Such a meme map uses a figure-8 diagram (an analemma
Analemma
In astronomy, an analemma is a curve representing the angular offset of a celestial body from its mean position on the celestial sphere as viewed from another celestial body relative to the viewing body's celestial equator...

) to map the gestation (in the lower loop), birth (at the choke point), and development (in the upper loop) of the selected meme. Such meme maps are non-scalar, with time mapped onto the y-axis and space onto the x-axis transect
Transect
A transect is a path along which one records and counts occurrences of the phenomena of study .It requires an observer to move along a fixed path and to count occurrences along the path and, at the same time, obtain the distance of the object from the path...

. One can read the temporal progress of the mapped meme from south to north on such a meme map. Paull has published a worked example using the "organics meme" (as in organic agriculture).

Robertson (2010) used a second technique of meme mapping to create two-dimensional representations of the selves of eleven participants drawn from both individualist and collectivist cultures. Participant narratives were transcribed, segmented and coded using a method similar to grounded theory
Grounded theory
Grounded theory is a systematic methodology in the social sciences involving the generation of theory from data. It is mainly used in qualitative research, but is also applicable to quantitative data....

. Coded segments exhibiting referent, connotative, affective and behavioral dimensions were declared to be memes. Memes that shared connotative, affective or behavioral qualities were linked. All of the maps in Robertson's sample evidenced volition, constancy, uniqueness, production, intimacy, and social interest. This method of mapping the self was successfully used in therapy to treat a youth who had attempted suicide on five occasions (Robertson 2011). The youth and psychotherapist co-constructed a plan to change the youth's presenting self, and her progress in making those changes was tracked in subsequent self-maps.

See also



  • Dual inheritance theory
    Dual inheritance theory
    Dual inheritance theory , also known as gene-culture coevolution, was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution...

  • Electronic Revolution
  • Know Your Meme
    Know Your Meme
    Know Your Meme is a web series originally from Rocketboom which documents various Internet memes and other online phenomena, and also investigates new and changing memes through research and the scientific method...

  • Memetic engineering
    Memetic engineering
    Memetic engineering is a term developed and coined by Leveious Rolando, John Sokol, and Gibran Burchett while they researched and observed the behavior of people after being purposely exposed to certain memetic themes...

  • Psycholinguistics
    Psycholinguistics
    Psycholinguistics or psychology of language is the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, comprehend and produce language. Initial forays into psycholinguistics were largely philosophical ventures, due mainly to a lack of cohesive data on how the...

  • Sociocultural evolution
    Sociocultural evolution
    Sociocultural evolution is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies have changed over time...

  • Survivals

  • Spiral Dynamics
    Spiral dynamics
    Spiral Dynamics is a theory of human development introduced in the 1996 book Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. The book was based on the theory of psychology professor Clare W. Graves...

  • Three hares
    Three hares
    The three hares is a circular motif appearing in sacred sites from the Middle and Far East to the churches of southwest England , and historical synagogues in Europe....

  • Viral marketing
    Viral marketing
    Viral marketing, viral advertising, or marketing buzz are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses...

  • Viral phenomenon
    Viral phenomenon
    Viral phenomena are objects or patterns able to replicate themselves or convert other objects into copies of themselves when these objects are exposed to them....

  • Viral video
    Viral video
    A viral video is one that becomes popular through the process of Internet sharing, typically through video sharing websites, social media and email...

  • The game (mind game)
    The Game (mind game)
    The Game is a mental game where the objective is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which, according to the rules of The Game, must be announced each time it occurs. It is impossible to win most versions of The Game; players can only attempt to...



External links