Social and Behavioral Sciences
A review of studies from moral and behavioral psychology was performed to assemble a coherent theory of imitation is a predominant mechanism for the evolution of human behavior and how emotions can influence patterns of inheritance. This builds on Richard Dawkins’ meme theory which argues that social learning by imitation produces behaviors (memes) which may be treated as self-replicating entities subject to natural selection. This theory was evaluated using Johnathan Haidt’s Moral Foundation Theory to propose a heuristic adaptiveness for moral purity motivated by the emotion disgust across cultures. To achieve this, specific purity-associating memes were tracked using Google Trends (www.google.com/trends) over a ten year period to assess geographic variability and change in frequency over time. These memes were found to have constant frequency but high geographic variability. While this model did appear fitting in a post hoc analysis, further characterization of meme behavior is needed to create hypotheses capable of predicting future behavior.
Robinson, Travis, "Memes, Morals and Evolution: How the Uniquely Human Act of Imitation Drives Cultural Evolution" (2016). Honors Projects. 481.