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EDM.com Spotlight

The Science Behind a Successful Meme

Memes actually became popular before the internet as graffiti during WWII. The term "meme" was then coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene; he defined it as a unit to transfer cultural ideas or behavior.

Researchers Keith Shubeck and Stephanie Huette from the University of Memphis conducted a new study to discover what makes memes successful. They created a meme machine that looks at psycholinguistic features, physical features, orthographical features and qualities such as length, concreteness, emotional arousal and even swear words and purposeful misspellings.

A successful meme was defined as one that resulted in more than 37,400 verbatim Google search results. Not too surprisingly they found that template memes are 2.2 times more likely to find fame while shorter memes were 2.8 times more likely. Swear words, however, made memes 1.77 less likely to succeed.

They analyzed 268 memes and were able to predict whether new memes would be successful with an 80% accuracy rate. The researchers predicted the success of "banana for scale" and "does this look like the face of mercy?"

Check out the people behind two of the most famous memes in internet history: "Success kid" and "overly attached girlfriend." Sam Griner became internet famous when a baby picture of him at the beach capturing a particularly funny face as he clenched sand in his fist became viral. "Overly attached girlfriend" is actually a girl named Laina Walker who makes funny YouTube videos.

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