17 Facts About Memes


A meme, a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins, is "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture".

A neologism is the name for a relatively new or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language.

Clinton Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author.

Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies.



A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme.

Spiderman Memes by Dolan Darker


Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

A concept is an abstract idea representing the fundamental characteristics of what it represents.

A gene is a locus of DNA which is made up of nucleotides and is the molecular unit of heredity.


Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution.

Viral phenomena are objects or patterns that are able to replicate themselves or convert other objects into copies of themselves when these objects are exposed to them.

Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype.

Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.


Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme's reproductive success.

Competition is, in general, a contest or rivalry between two or more organisms, animals, individuals, economic groups or social groups, etc., for territory, a niche, for resources, goods, for mates, for prestige, recognition, for awards, for group or social status, or for leadership and profit.

In biology, a mutation is the permanent alteration of the nucleotide sequence of the genome of an organism, virus, or extrachromosomal DNA or other genetic elements.


Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts.


Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and mutate.


Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.


A field of study called memetics arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model.

Memetics is the study of information and culture based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution.

A number of different Markov models of DNA sequence evolution have been proposed.


Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically.

In anthropology, folkloristics, and the social and behavioral sciences, emic and etic refer to two kinds of field research done and viewpoints obtained: emic, from within the social group and etic, from outside.

Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation.


However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible.


Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory's underpinnings.

The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms as applied to populations of humans and other animals.


Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.


The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

The Selfish Gene is a 1976 book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, in which the author builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's Adaptation and Natural Selection.


Dawkins's own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey's suggestion that "memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically" and proposed to regard memes as "physically residing in the brain".


Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey's opinion, had been simpler.


At the New Directors' Showcase 2013 in Cannes, Dawkins' opinion on memetics was deliberately ambiguous.

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