What Are Memes?

A meme is an idea, piece of information, or trend that spreads through the culture — from cold-shoulder shirts for women in 2017 to emojis and gifs online. Religious belief systems and marketing campaigns traffic in memes. The term was famously coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene as a cultural corollary to the biological transmission of genetic information via genes and genetic recombination. A successful meme is said to “go viral.”

Recent posts on Memes

K. Ramsland

Persistent Myths about Serial Killers

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on February 12, 2018 in Shadow Boxing
Despite improved research and refined definitions, former ideas about serial killers persist in some news sources.

Why Do People Think Animals Make Good Therapists?

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on October 16, 2017 in Animals and Us
Public interest in animal-assisted therapy has grown by leaps and bounds. Yale University researchers examine the reason for its appeal.

Dissecting the Clean-Eating Meme

By Emily T. Troscianko on August 29, 2016 in A Hunger Artist
At the heart of 'clean eating' is a potent metaphor. It's worth taking a long hard look at its threats and promises and the rest of its dangerous box of cognitive tricks.

How a Cultural Meme Was Born

New insights into the origin of language as a mandrill in an English zoo invents a gesture for "leave me alone," and it spreads through the community

Coca-Cola & Microsoft Spread #Cyberhero Meme

By Dana Klisanin Ph.D. on February 02, 2015 in Digital Altruism
Coca-cola wins best Super Bowl commercial by reminding us that everything in life has an opposite, even cyberbullies.

Why “I Can’t Breathe” Will Be the Meme of the Decade

By Richard Louv on December 05, 2014 in People in Nature
Eric Garner’s cry “I can’t breathe!” taps the zeitgeist of our age: a sense of suffocating helplessness in the face of injustice and unrelenting intrusion, not only by the police.

Rewilding: A Cultural Meme for Rehabilitating Our Hearts

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on October 31, 2014 in Animal Emotions
Rewilding is a cultural meme and is all about rehabilitating our hearts and souls. It is about acting from the inside out.

Is There Really an Epidemic of Narcissism?

By Peg Streep on September 03, 2014 in Tech Support
Everywhere you look, there are articles declaring that all of us, especially the young, are more and more unhealthily self-involved and selfish. The real question? Is it true?

Murder by Meme: Slender Man and the Wakefield Anti-Vax Hoax

Like scary Slender Man, viral views over a vaccine-autism link spread from a single human's fiction.

The Resilience Meme

By Gayil Nalls Ph.D. on May 28, 2014 in Sensoria
As climate changes and new threats arise, humans are not only hard-wired for survival–we are a networked, global society and know we are the generation that must act now.

Fighting Depression Stigma: The Ends Justify the Memes

By Jonathan Rottenberg Ph.D. on April 06, 2014 in Charting the Depths
Ironically, a profusion of angry, silly memes is likely to do more for our public conversation about depression than many rounds of sober sloganeering.
Google Image Search. The original page was inoperable.

What Makes Videos Go Viral?

By Rosanna E. Guadagno Ph.D. on April 05, 2013 in Why People Click
Viral Videos: Strong emotional reactions lead people to spread Internet videos.

Why Memes Are a Bad Idea

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on February 13, 2013 in Hot Thought
Memes are bad ideas because of the substantial differences between biological and cultural evolution.

Is Our Society Manufacturing Depressed People?

By Mel Schwartz L.C.S.W. on March 19, 2012 in A Shift of Mind
Our society is in the throes of a virtual epidemic of depression. We need to look deeper into this phenomenon to understand it and overcome it.

How a Generation Was Misled About Natural Selection

By Liane Gabora Ph.D. on May 17, 2011 in Mindbloggling
Those who have applied Darwinism outside of biology without grasping John von Neumann's basic insights have been susceptible to a host of pseudoscientific misadventures.

Why Is It So Important to Be Right?

By Mel Schwartz L.C.S.W. on March 07, 2011 in A Shift of Mind
Accepting being incorrect without any loss or embarrassment.

Memes, Selfish Genes and Darwinian Paranoia

By Massimo Pigliucci on July 26, 2009 in Rationally Speaking
Genes are not at all the sort of things Richard Dawkins and some other biologists think they are.