comparison/contrast of memes and engrams

Scott Chase (
Tue, 12 Oct 1999 20:14:08 -0700

Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 20:14:08 -0700
From: "Scott Chase" <>
Subject: comparison/contrast of memes and engrams

I'm a newbie on this list and enjoy the back and forth I've seen over the pressing issues of memetics as an emerging discipline. Memes, however defined, I would take as mostly external and cultural phenomena. I've been reading about memory research over the past year (mostly on synaptic plasticity and long-term potentiation (Bliss and Lomo etc...) and molecular/electrophysiological correlates and criticisms). I've been intrigued by this particular "search for the engram". Engrams would likely be individual and internal phenomena, contrasted with memes.

Noticing debate on "internal memes" on this list, I wonder why one would replace the older term engram with a new term "internal meme"? Wouldn't it be better to keep the ideas separate, having memes represent a unit of cultural selection/drift existing outside and engrams representing internal storage units? There could exist a chasm between research into cultural evolution and research into memory, so maybe the gap might be hard to bridge. Plus, both memes and engrams are somewhat chimeric and elusive in nature, so the study is difficult, I would assume.

A side issue might be that memes (if based on imitiation or contagion) are a subset of cultural units. When internalized and differentially processed, they might likewise reside as a subset within an individual's "engram-store" (co-opted from Richard Semon in his classic book _The Mneme_). See John Laurent's article in volume 3 of JOM, for some relevant info.

I'd be interested in response to this issue, which I find relevant. Thanks in advance.

Scott Chase

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