Mentifact (sometimes called a psychofact[1]) is a term coined by Julian Huxley, used together with the related terms "sociofact" and "artifact" to describe how cultural traits, such as "beliefs, values, ideas",[2] take on a life of their own spanning over generations, and are conceivable as objects in themselves.[3] This concept has been useful to anthropologists in refining the definition of culture. For instance, Edward Tylor, the first academic anthropologist, included both artifacts and such abstract concepts as kinship systems as elements of culture. Anthropologist Robert Aunger explains that such an inclusive definition ends up encouraging poor anthropological practice because "it becomes difficult to distinguish what exactly is not part of culture".[2] Aunger goes on to explain that after the cognitive revolution in the social sciences in the 1960s, there is "considerable agreement" among anthropologists that a mentifactual analysis, one that assumes that culture consists of "things in the head" (i.e. mentifacts) is the most appropriate way to define the concept of culture.[2]

See also


  1. Boilès, Charles L. (1982). "Processes of Musical Semiosis". Yearbook for Traditional Music. 14: 24–44.
  2. Robert Aunger (2002). The Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-0150-7.
  3. Huxley, J. S. 1955. Guest Editorial: Evolution, Cultural and Biological. Yearbook of Anthropology, 2–25.

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