The evolution of individual and cultural variation in social learning


It is often assumed in experiments and models that social learning abilities extendash{} how often individuals copy others, plus who and how they copy extendash{} are species-typical. Yet there is accruing evidence for systematic individual variation in social learning within species. Here we review evidence for this individual variation, placing it within a continuum of increasing phenotypic plasticity, from genetically polymorphic personality traits, to developmental plasticity via cues such as maternal stress, to the individual learning of social learning, and finally the social learning of social learning. The latter, possibly restricted to humans, can generate stable between-group cultural variation in social learning. More research is needed to understand the extent, causes, and consequences of this individual and cultural variation.

Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31, 215–225.