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Do Animals Have Memes?

By S.M. Reader and K.N. Laland


Imitation has been put forward as a defining feature of memetic transmission. Since\ud there is currently poor evidence for imitation in non-human animals, such definitions\ud have been interpreted as restricting meme theory to the study of human behaviour\ud patterns and birdsong. We believe this is a mistake. Human capacities for imitation,\ud teaching and language may well account for the extraordinary diversity of human\ud culture compared with animal proto-cultures, but imitation is simply one mechanism of\ud transmitting acquired information between individuals. As long as information is\ud transmitted with sufficient fidelity to be replicated in the brain of the receiver, any\ud social learning process will do. Non-human animals may be poor imitators, but many\ud are excellent social learners. We argue that the meme concept can, and should, be\ud applied to animal cultural transmission

Topics: Biologie, social learning, cultural transmission, acquired information, animals, imitation, replicator, meme
Year: 1999
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