Adaptive social learning strategies in temporally and spatially varying environments

Human Nature 23 (4):386-418 (2012)
Long before the origins of agriculture human ancestors had expanded across the globe into an immense variety of environments, from Australian deserts to Siberian tundra. Survival in these environments did not principally depend on genetic adaptations, but instead on evolved learning strategies that permitted the assembly of locally adaptive behavioral repertoires. To develop hypotheses about these learning strategies, we have modeled the evolution of learning strategies to assess what conditions and constraints favor which kinds of strategies. To build on prior work, we focus on clarifying how spatial variability, temporal variability, and the number of cultural traits influence the evolution of four types of strategies: (1) individual learning, (2) unbiased social learning, (3) payoff-biased social learning, and (4) conformist transmission. Using a combination of analytic and simulation methods, we show that spatial—but not temporal—variation strongly favors the emergence of conformist transmission. This effect intensifies when migration rates are relatively high and individual learning is costly. We also show that increasing the number of cultural traits above two favors the evolution of conformist transmission, which suggests that the assumption of only two traits in many models has been conservative. We close by discussing how (1) spatial variability represents only one way of introducing the low-level, nonadaptive phenotypic trait variation that so favors conformist transmission, the other obvious way being learning errors, and (2) our findings apply to the evolution of conformist transmission in social interactions. Throughout we emphasize how our models generate empirical predictions suitable for laboratory testing
Keywords Learning strategies  Individual learning  Social learning  Conformist transmission  Payoff-biased transmission
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s12110-012-9151-y
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 30,765
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 7 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Adaptive Altruistic Strategies.Dennis L. Krebs - 2002 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2):265-266.
Is Culture Inherited Through Social Learning?Kenneth Reisman - 2007 - Biological Theory 2 (3):300-306.
Temporal Parts.Theodore Sider - 2007 - In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 241--262.
Learning Theory and Epistemology.Kevin Kelly - 2004 - In Ilkka Niiniluoto, Matti Sintonen & Jan Wolenski (eds.), Handbook of Epistemology. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic. pp. 183--203.
Added to PP index

Total downloads
2 ( #844,252 of 2,214,617 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #408,824 of 2,214,617 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature