Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science

2009 Edition
| Editors: Robert A. Meyers (Editor-in-Chief)

Evolution of Culture, Memetics

  • Francis Heylighen
  • Klaas Chielens
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-30440-3_189

Definition of the Subject

Cultural traits are transmitted from person to person, similarly to genes or viruses. Cultural evolution therefore can be understood through thesame basic mechanisms of reproduction, spread, variation, and natural selection that underlie biological evolution. This implies a shift from genesas units of biological information to a new type of units of cultural information: memes. The concept of meme canbe defined as an information pattern, held in an individual's memory, which is capable of being copied to another individual's memory. Memetics can thenbe defined as the theoretical and empirical science that studies the replication, spread and evolution of memes. Memes differ in their degree of fitness,i. e. adaptedness to the socio‐cultural environment in which they propagate. Fitter memes will be more successful in being communicated,“infecting” more individuals, thus spreading over a larger population. This biological analogy allows us to apply Darwinian...

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francis Heylighen
    • 1
  • Klaas Chielens
    • 1
  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium