, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 105-113

Influences of social learning on mate-choice decisions

Abstract

Evidence from both field and laboratory is consistent with the hypothesis that animals can acquire mate preferences by observing the mating behavior of others. It is difficult, however, to distinguish social learning about mates from a host of other social effects on mating that do not produce changes in preferences. Examples are drawn from laboratory studies on mate choice in female and male Japanese quail that illustrate ways in which social cues influence mating decisions. Quail of both sexes use social cues to modify their mate choices, but the sexes use the information to serve different purposes. Female quail gain preferences for males seen mating with other females, whereas males avoid females that they had observed mating with other males. This sex difference in social learning provides an example of how costs and benefits of sexual behavior can shape decision-making processes. Implications of the influence of social learning on sexual selection are briefly discussed.

I was supported by NSF Grant 0234047 during the writing of this paper. I thank Jeff Galef for the invitation to write a review for this issue as well as for his thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. Julie Gros-Louis and an anonymous reviewer also provided valuable comments on an earlier draft.