Re: Genetic Memes

Aaron Lynch (
Mon, 13 Apr 1998 21:36:33 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998 21:36:33 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Genetic Memes
In-Reply-To: <>

>I'm interested in the genetic meme: Memes are not language dependent.
>A facial expression can convey a complex meme, especially with a
>familiar friend. Some of these meaninngful patterns are hardwired.
>For instance, facial expressions of basic feelings are the same in
>every human (and some primates) with the addition of cultural
>It seems to me that evolutionary psychology and memetics are fields that
>will benefit powerfully from collaboration. Because what meaning is
>genetic may need to be called genetic meme-tendencies. For researchers
>with the right combined backgrounds it seems quite plausible that we
>could come to understand the differences between these in born
>tendencies (such as reciprocation, rise to a challenge, ad inf.) and
>cultural variations or innovations.
>For those interested in memetic "engineering", propagating or
>proslytising ones system of categorizing reality, or developing a global
>ethics, this differentiation is necessary.
>I would appreciate any comments this may call forth!
>Valerie Stansfield
>Los Angeles


I discuss a little bit of the interrelationship of evolutionary psychology
and memetics in my book Thought Contagion. The term "genetic meme,"
however, seems potentially confusing because memes are defined as neurally
stored (non-genetic) information.

Genetically predisposed receptivities and transmission routes, however, do
exist. As you have pointed out, facial expressions constitute an innate
form of communication. And yawning comes to mind as a simple, innately
predisposed act that communicates occasionally replicating information to
our conspecifics. Genetic evolution explains our capacity to yawn and our
tendency to reciprocate when others yawn around us. Yet the information in
a single "yawn contagion" is memetic rather than genetic.

Memes and genes often interact with each other, so collaboration between
memetics and evolutionary psychology is indeed worthwhile.


--Aaron Lynch

THOUGHT CONTAGION: How Belief Spreads Through Society The New Science of Memes Basic Books. Info and free sample:

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