Accidental evolution


The non-deliberate creation of a meme by mutation, e.g. a child mis-hears a piece of information and then passes on the incorrect copy. See also directed evolution

Copy fidelity


A measure of how accurately a replicator is copied. Low copy fidelity results from mutation



A means of meme transmission where the recipient follows a set of instructions to reproduce the meme - e.g. humming a tune written on a sheet of music, or following a recipe



A means of meme transmission where the recipient imitates the completed concept – e.g. hearing someone hum a tune and starting to hum it yourself

Directed evolution


The deliberate creation of a meme from one or more preceding memes – for example, the designer of the CD format deciding to store binary information on a spiral track on a flat disc: sometimes referred to as memetic engineering. See also accidental evolution



A meme that is not being actively transmitted, e.g. a concept written in a book which becomes active again once read and accepted



The result of combining imperfect copy fidelity with selection pressures. This is not limited to biological systems: any system that exhibits slight mutation (directed or accidental) and contains selection pressures will produce 'fitter' populations



A set of holons structured into an open-ended hierarchical relationship.  A memeplex can be viewed as a holarchy.



Something which can be viewed as a complete structure but also as a component of a larger structure.  

Horizontal transmission


In genetics, genes introduced via therapy or viruses. In memetics, concepts learned from peers and media that tend to be superficially implanted. See also vertical transmission

Immune System


In the context of memetics, the idea that the memes currently installed in a host (e.g. you) assess and reject new memes which do not support their further growth. This has the effect (which is sometimes beneficial) of preventing the host from learning new things



an item of cultural or informational data which is transmitted by imitation



A set of interlocking, self-supporting memes (for example, a religion or quantum theory).



A process by which a replicator produces an copy of itself with imperfect copy fidelity. Mutation usually leads to extinction but can lead to evolution (accidental or directed)



A meme carried by a memeplex which is protected from selection pressures and has a strong effect on the recipient - e.g. obsolete dietary laws carried by a religion



 The physical expression of a replicator - for a gene, the phenotype is the organism that results from expression of the gene.  For a meme, the phenotype is the resulting song, bicycle, chair, article of clothing etc



The number of recipients who hear/see transmission of a meme



Any unit of information whose nature influences its own probability of replication. The most commonly-known replicator is the gene, which reproduces itself through biological mechanisms (e.g. us). Gene replication cannot explain the diversity of human culture, so part of that must be carried by another replicator, namely memes.



Attributes of a meme that increase the likelihood that it will be accept by a recipient

Selection pressures


A set of conditions that favour one mutation over another and leads to populations that are 'fitter' as far as those condidions are concerned – e.g. the evolution of fuel-efficient automobile engines is a direct result of continually rising fuel prices



A viewpoint that proposes that our conscious selves are a by-product of the process of meme filtering (read Meme, myself, I and Are we truly conscious?)

Success Factor


As used on this site, a numerical value defined as the number of copies of a meme in one generation divided by that in the preceding generation.  If the factor is greater than one, the meme will spread (start with A x B x C x D = growth)



A third replicator, posited by Sue Blackmore, that evolves in digital networks without intervention from outside parties (e.g. us)

Test of universality


An assertion that if something is widely shared but is not universally common (e.g. a particular language or mode of dress) then the carrier for that is memetic rather than genetic.

Vertical transmission


In genetics, genes passed from parents to child. In memetics, concepts learned from parents and teachers which tend to be deeply embedded – generally regarded as the roots of religion and national identity. See also horizontal transmission