Friday, September 15, 2017

Can we measure memes?

Continuing this post, there has been hot and at times rancorous debates in the scientific community about the existence of cultural memes ever since Dawkins proposed them. And Dennett expands on them in his new book. But can we scientifically measure them? See what this article has to say: "Can we measure memes?" Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, 25 May 2011. The abstract:

"Memes are the fundamental unit of cultural evolution and have been left upon the periphery of cognitive neuroscience due to their inexact definition and the consequent presumption that they are impossible to measure. Here it is argued that although a precise definition of memes is rather difficult it does not preclude highly controlled experiments studying the neural substrates of their initiation and replication. In this paper, memes are termed as either internally or externally represented (i-memes/e-memes) in relation to whether they are represented as a neural substrate within the central nervous system or in some other form within our environment. It is argued that neuroimaging technology is now sufficiently advanced to image the connectivity profiles of i-memes and critically, to measure changes to i-memes over time, i.e., as they evolve. It is argued that it is wrong to simply pass off memes as an alternative term for “stimulus” and “learnt associations” as it does not accurately account for the way in which natural stimuli may dynamically “evolve” as clearly observed in our cultural lives."

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