is a term coined in 1980 by two American
scientists, the biomathematician
Charles J. Lumsden and the
sociobiologist E. O. Wilson
, to denote a hypothetical 'unit' of culture, in their controversial attempt to analyse cultural evolution
by using techniques borrowed from population genetics
, and to infer a theory of evolution of the human mind. It effectively means much the same as the older term "cultural trait" used by anthropologists, and offers similar difficulties of identification and definition. The fullest exposition of their theory appeared in their book Genes, Mind, and Culture: the coevolutionary process
(1981), which received many reviews in the scientific press, many of them highly negative; it was re-issued in 2005 with a review of subsequent developments. The term has declined in popularity, and the older term meme
(coined by Richard Dawkins
in his book The Selfish Gene
(1976)) is now used in its stead almost universally (even by Wilson in his later writings).
For a discussion of the concept, see Meme.