From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see MEME.
The term "meme" (IPA: /miːm/, rhyming with "theme"), coined and popularized in 1976 by the biologist Richard Dawkins, refers to a "unit of cultural information" which can propagate from one mind to another in a manner analogous to genes (i.e., the units of genetic information).
Dawkins gave as examples of memes: tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothes fashions, ways of making pots, or of building arches. A meme, he said, propagates itself as a unit of cultural evolution and diffusion — analogous in many ways to the behavior of the gene. Often memes propagate as more-or-less integrated cooperative sets or groups, referred to as memeplexes or meme-complexes.
The idea of memes has proved a successful meme in its own right, gaining a degree of penetration into popular culture which relatively few modern scientific theories achieve.
Proponents of memes suggest that memes evolve via natural selection — in a way very similar to Charles Darwin's ideas concerning biological evolution — on the premise that variation, mutation, competition, and "inheritance" influence their replicative success. For example, while one idea may become extinct, other ideas will survive, spread, and mutate — for better or for worse — through modification.
Meme-theorists contend that memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes which replicate the most effectively spread best; which allows for the possibility that successful memes might prove detrimental to their hosts.