Evolution and Memes: The human brain as a selective imitation device

Abstract

The meme is an evolutionary replicator, defined as information copied from person to person by imitation. I suggest that taking memes into account may provide a better understanding of human evolution in the following way. Memes appeared in human evolution when our ancestors became capable of imitation. From this time on two replicators, memes and genes, coevolved. Successful memes changed the selective environment, favouring genes for the ability to copy them. I have called this process memetic drive. Meme-gene coevolution produced a big brain that is especially good at copying certain kinds of memes. This is an example of the more general process in which a replicator and its replication machinery evolve together. The human brain has been designed not just for the benefit of human genes, but for the replication of memes. It is a selective imitation device.

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Citations of this work

Memetics does provide a useful way of understanding cultural evolution.Susan Blackmore - 2010 - In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary debates in philosophy of biology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 255--272.
Consciousness in meme machines.Susan J. Blackmore - 2003 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (4-5):19-30.
The Case for Memes.Matt Gers - 2008 - Biological Theory 3 (4):305-315.
Imitation Makes Us Human.Susan Blackmore - 2007 - In Charles Pasternak (ed.), What Makes Us Human? ONEWorld Publications. pp. 1-16.

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