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The Psychology of Memes

Date: 10/04/23

Author Name: Sareem Athar

Qualifications: BA (Psychology, Mass.Communication & Journalism, Literature), MSc Clinical Psychology, Diploma in child psychology

Designation: Former Admin Head

Word count: 358.

Reading time: 5 minutes.

Reviewed & edited by: Mariyam Mohammed & Ayesha Begum.

Why We Find Them So Funny and Relatable

Memes have taken over the internet and are a huge part of online culture (1). Memes are ubiquitous images and videos that are humorous, relatable, and frequently absurd (2). They offer social commentary and humour that appeals to millions of people around the world (3).

Memes appeal to our innate need for approval and social connection (4). We experience a sense of belonging to a larger community with similar values, experiences, and viewpoints when we share and laugh at the same memes (5). Research has shown that people who use memes tend to have a higher need for social approval and recognition than those who do not, suggesting that memes may serve as a form of social signalling (6).

Another important aspect that makes memes appealing is their relatability (7). Memes frequently feature common place occurrences or feelings that are relatable to many people, like the stress of deadlines and exams or the struggle to get out of bed in the morning (8,9). Memes give us the impression that we are not alone in our struggles and that others comprehend and sympathize with our situation by encapsulating these common experiences in a humorous or ironic way (10).

Memes can be an effective tool for political satire and social commentary (11,12). Humour and irony are frequently used in memes about politics, social issues, and current events to critique and challenge prevailing narratives and power structures (13). Memes can encourage people to think critically and act for social change by highlighting the contradictions and absurdities in our society(14). Younger generations are particularly susceptible to this, as they are more likely to use online resources and memes to interact with social and political issues (15).

In conclusion, meme psychology is a fascinating and intricate subject that illuminates how humour, social connection, and social commentary overlap in the digital age (16). Memes show the diversity and complexity of our cultural landscape as well as the evolving nature of humour in the digital age, with humour and social commentary coming from a variety of viewpoints and communities. Memes provide a distinctive and potent way to interact with others, express our beliefs and identities, and contest prevailing ideologies and hierarchies of power (17).


1. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


(1)Shifman, L. Memes in Digital Culture; MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2013. Available from:

(2)Phillips, C. A. (2019). Memes as visual communication. International Journal of Communication, 13, 2626-2648.

(3)Knobel, M.; Lankshear, C. A New Literacies Sampler; Peter Lang: New York, NY, USA, 2007. Available from:

(4)Milner, R.M. Pop polyvocality: Internet memes, public participation, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Int. J. Commun. 2013, 7, 2357–2390. Available from:

(5)Shifman, L. An anatomy of a YouTube meme. New Media Soc. 2014, 14, 1874–1892. Available from:

(6)Chang, C.Y.; Rossmann, D.; Jung, J.; Kwon, K. Generation Like: Comparative characteristics in Instagram hashtags between celebrities and non-celebrities. Telemat. Inform. 2019, 42, Article 101262. Available from:

7.Wong EF, Holyoak KJ. Cognitive and motivational factors driving sharing of internet memes. Mem Cognit [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 June 6];49(5):863–72. Available from:

8. Akram U, Drabble J. Mental health memes: beneficial or aversive in relation to psychiatric symptoms? Humanit Soc Sci Commun [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 6];9(1):370. Available from:

9. Akram U, Irvine K, Allen SF, Stevenson JC, Ellis JG, Drabble J. Internet memes related to the COVID-19 pandemic as a potential coping mechanism for anxiety. Sci Rep [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 June 6];11(1):22305. Available from:

10. Hong SJ, Low BYF. Use of Internet memes in PSAs: Roles of perceived emotion, involvement with memes, and attitudes toward the issuing organization in perceived PSA effectiveness. Health Commun [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 6];1–13. Available from:

11. Flecha Ortiz JA, Santos Corrada MA, Lopez E, Dones V. Analysis of the use of memes as an exponent of collective coping during COVID-19 in Puerto Rico. Media Int Aust [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 June 6];178(1):168–81. Available from:

12. Harbo TF. Internet memes as knowledge practice in social movements: Rethinking Economics’ delegitimization of economists. Discourse Context & Media [Internet]. 2022;50(100650):100650. Available from:

13. Petrova Y. Meme language, its impact on digital culture and collective thinking. E3S Web Conf [Internet]. 2021;273:11026. Available from:

14. Kumar S. The psychology behind memes and their impacts [Internet]. 1678730276000 [cited 2023 Jun 6]. Available from:

15. [cited 2023 Jun 6]. Available from:

16. Can memes benefit mental wellness? Psychology Today [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 6]; Available from:


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