Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Robert A. Meyers

Evolution of Culture, Memetics

  • Francis Heylighen
  • Klaas Chielens
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27737-5_189-4


Cultural traits are transmitted from person to person, similarly to genes or viruses. Cultural evolution, therefore, can be understood through the same basic mechanisms of reproduction, spread, variation, and natural selection that underlie biological evolution. This implies a shift from genes as units of biological information to a new type of units of cultural information: memes. The concept of meme can be defined as an information pattern, held in an individual’s memory, which is capable of being copied to another individual’s memory. Memetics can then be 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 sociocultural 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 concepts...


Biological Evolution Production Rule Cultural Evolution Horizontal Transmission Cultural Transmission 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium