Memetic Selection Criteria

These are the criteria that determine the overall fitness of a meme, i.e. whether it will maintain within an individual's memory and spread to other individuals, or be eliminated (Heylighen, 1992, 1993). As meme spreading depends on different objective, subjective and intersubjective mechanisms, the criteria are sometimes contradictory. See also the general selection criteria for knowledge.

* Contribution to individual fitness

A fit meme should help its carrier to survive and reproduce. That means the meme should not induce behaviors that are useless (wasting resources) or dangerous.

* Reliability of Predictions

Useful behaviors imply correct anticipations of the effect of actions. Memes producing predictions that turn out to be wrong will tend to be eliminated.

* Learnability

A meme should be easily assimilated to the cognitive system. This implies that it should not be too complex, and should not too directly contradict already established rules (coherency), which may be genetic or memetic of origin. In particular it means that rules that are consonant with genetic injunctions will be much easier to learn.

* Ease of communication

Memes that are easily transmitted to another individual, either because they lead to a salient behavior that is easy to imitate, or can be clearly expressed in language or other media, will have a higher fitness.

* Tendency to be transmitted

Memes that induce their carriers to actively "convert" or "teach" other individuals, thus stimulating their transmission, will be more fit.

* Conformity pressure = "Meme selfishness"

As memory space is limited and cognitive dissonance tends to be avoided, it is difficult for inconsistent memes to have the same carriers. Cognitively dissonant memes are in a similar relation of competition as alleles: genes that compete for the same location in the genome. Memes that induce behavior in their carriers that tends to eliminate rival memes will be more fit, since they will have more resources for themselves. The concrete result is that a group of carriers with different memes will tend towards homogeneity, resulting from the imposition of the majority meme and elimination of all non-conforming memes (Boyd & Richerson, 1985).

* Contribution to collective fitness

Memes that increase the fitness of the group or social system formed by their carriers are more likely to get more carriers, because successful groups expand or are imitated. Collective fitness is sometimes in contradiction with individual fitness because of the problem of sub optimization: what is best for an individual is not always best for the group.


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