Robert Aunger

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology


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The meme is a recently coined name for an old idea: one that explains how culture evolves through a process of inheritance involving bits of information. A meme is thus considered to be analogous to a gene as the unit of cultural, as opposed to genetic, evolution. Some memeticists believe that inheritance is enough to define replication. This article also uses the term ‘imitation’ in the broad sense. However, this is not a definition of imitation which social psychologists would accept. For most psychologists, imitation involves observation of a behavioural model — a figure conspicuously absent when reading a text. This article demonstrates that replication must be something more than just the inheritance of information. The question then is whether cultural reproduction of any type fulfils the criteria for replication.

Keywords: meme; culture; inheritance; gene; evolution; replication; imitation; behavioural model

Article.  4065 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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