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meme


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A self-replicating cultural element or pattern of behaviour, analogous to a gene but passed from one individual to another by imitation rather than genetic transmission. Memes are subject to inheritance and evolution through a form of natural selection according to their likelihood, relative to the alternatives available in the meme pool, of being reproduced or of multiplying. Typical examples are tunes, ideas, beliefs, catch-phrases, stories, hairstyles, clothing fashions, recipes, inventions, skills, traditions, and theories. Whereas genes propagate themselves in a gene pool by migrating from one body to the next, memes propagate themselves in a meme pool by migrating from one brain to the next; but unlike genes, memes are subject to Lamarckian inheritance, because acquired characteristics can be incorporated into a meme and passed on. See also rumour, small world phenomenon. memeplex n. (Contraction of meme complex), a collection of mutually adapted memes that tend to be transmitted together, such as those constituting a religion or political ideology. meme pool n. The sum total of all memes in a population at a given time. Compare gene pool. memetic adj. Of, relating to, or consisting of a meme or memes. memetic engineering n. Deliberate and systematic manipulation of memes or memeplexes, as in education, psychotherapy, advertising, or brainwashing. Compare genetic engineering. memetics n. The science of memes. [From Greek mimema something that is imitated, from mimeisthai to imitate, coined in 1976 by the British ethologist Richard Dawkins (born 1941) to sound like gene and to be reminiscent of memory and French même same, because memes are sustained and replicated by memory and imitation]


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