Social learning and culture in animals

  • Carel P. van Schaik

Abstract

Most animals must learn some of the behaviours in their repertoire, and some must learn most. Although learning is often thought of as an individual exercise, in nature much learning is social, i.e. under the influence of conspecifics. Social learners acquire novel information or skills faster and at lower cost, but risk learning false information or useless skills. Social learning can be divided into learning from social information and learning through social interaction. Different species have different mechanisms of learning from social information, ranging from selective attention to the environment due to the presence of others to copying of complete motor sequences. In vertical (or oblique) social learning, naïve individuals often learn skills or knowledge from parents (or other adults), whereas horizontal social learning is from peers, either immatures or adults, and more often concerns eavesdropping and public information use. Because vertical social learning is often adaptive, maturing individuals often have a preference for it over individual exploration. The more cognitively demanding social learning abilities probably evolved in this context, in lineages where offspring show long association with parents and niches are complex. Because horizontal learning can be maladaptive, especially when perishable information has become outdated, animals must decide when to deploy social learning. Social learning of novel skills can lead to distinct traditions or cultures when the innovations are sufficiently rare and effectively transmitted socially. Animal cultures may be common but to date taxonomic coverage is insufficient to know how common. Cultural evolution is potentially powerful, but largely confined to humans, for reasons currently unknown. A general theory of culture is therefore badly needed.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aunger R (2007) Memes. In: Dunbar RIM, Barrett L (eds) Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 599-604Google Scholar
  2. Biro D, Inoue-Nakamura N, Tonooka R, Yamakoshi G, Sousa C, Matsuzawa T (2003) Cultural innovation and transmission of tool use in wild chimpanzees: evidence from field experiments. Anim Cogn 6:213-223PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boesch C (1996) The emergence of cultures among wild chimpanzees. Proc Brit Acad 88:251-268Google Scholar
  4. Bonnie KE, Earley RL (2007) Expanding the scope for social information use. Anim Behav 74:171-181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Box HO (1984) Primate Behavior and Social Ecology. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. Boyd R, Richerson PJ (1985) Culture and the Evolutionary Process. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyd R, Richerson PJ (1996) Why culture is common, but cultural evolution is rare. Proc Brit Acad 88:77-93Google Scholar
  8. Burkart JM, van Schaik CP (2010) Cognitive consequences of cooperative breeding in primates. Anim Cogn 13:1-19PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burkart JM, Hrdy SB, van Schaik CP (2009a) Cooperative breeding and human cognitive evolution. Evol Anthropol 18:175-186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burkart JM, Foglia M, Strasser A (2009b) Trade-offs between social learning and individual innovativeness in common marmosets, Callithrix jacchus. Anim Behav 77:1291-1301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Byrne RW (2002) Imitation of novel complex actions: what does the evidence from animals mean? Adv Stud Behav 31:77-105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Byrne RW, Bates LA (2007) Sociality, evolution and cognition. Curr Biol 17:R714-R723PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Caro TM, Hauser MD (1992) Is there teaching in nonhuman animals? Q Rev Biol 67:151-174PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dabelsteen T (2005) Public, private or anonymous? Facilitating and countering eavesdropping. In: McGregor PK (ed) Animal Communication Networks. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 38-62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Danchin E, Giraldeau L-A, Valone TJ, Wagner RH (2004) Public information: from nosy neighbors to cultural evolution. Science 305:487-491PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dawkins R (1976) The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Day RL, MacDonald T, Brown C, Laland KN, Reader SM (2001) Interactions between shoal size and conformity in guppy social foraging. Anim Behav 62:917-925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. de Waal FBM (2001) The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. de Waal FBM, Johanowicz DL (1993) Modification of reconciliation behavior through social experience: an experiment with two macaque species. Child Dev 64:897-908PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Durham WH (1991) Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity. Stanford University Press, Stanford/CAGoogle Scholar
  21. Efferson C, Lalive R, Richerson PJ, McElreath R, Lubell M (2008) Conformists and mavericks: the empirics of frequency-dependent cultural transmission. Evol Hum Behav 29:56-64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fairbanks LA (2000) The developmental timing of primate play. A neural selection model. In: Parker ST, Langer J, McKinney ML (eds) Biology, Brains, and Behavior: The Evolution of Human Development. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, pp 131-158Google Scholar
  23. Fragaszy DM, Perry S (2003) Towards a biology of traditions. In: Fragaszy DM, Perry S (eds) The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1-32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Galef BG Jr (1995) Why behaviour patterns that animals learn socially are locally adaptive. Anim Behav 49:1325-1334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Galef BG Jr, Giraldeau L-A (2001) Social influences on foraging in vertebrates: causal mechanisms and adaptive functions. Anim Behav 61:3-15PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Giraldeau L-A, Valone TJ, Templeton JJ (2002) Potential disadvantages of using socially acquired information. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 357:1559-1566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hardus ME, Lameira AR, van Schaik CP, Wich SA (2009) Tool use in wild orang-utans modifies sound production: a functionally deceptive innovation? Proc R Soc Lond B 276:3689-3694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harlow HF, Harlow MK (1962) Social deprivation in monkeys. Sci Am 207:136-146PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Henrich J (2004) Demography and cultural evolution: how adaptive cultural processes can produce maladaptive losses – the Tasmanian case. Am Antiq 69:197-214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Henrich J, McElreath R (2007) Dual-inheritance theory: the evolution of human cultural capacities and cultural evolution. In: Dunbar RIM, Barrett L (eds) Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 555-570Google Scholar
  31. Heyes CM (2001) Causes and consequences of imitation. Trends Cogn Sci 5:253-261PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hoppitt WJE, Laland KN (2008) Social processes influencing learning in animals: a review of the evidence. Adv Stud Behav 38:105-165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hoppitt WJE, Brown GR, Kendal R, Rendell L, Thornton A, Webster MM, Laland KN (2008) Lessons from animal teaching. Trends Ecol Evol 23:486-493PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Horner V, Whiten A (2005) Causal knowledge and imitation/emulation switching in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens). Anim Cogn 8:164-181PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hrubesch C, Preuschoft S, van Schaik CP (2009) Skill mastery inhibits adoption of observed alternative solutions among chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Anim Cogn 12:209-216PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Humle T, Matsuzawa T (2002) Ant-dipping among chimpanzees of Bossou, Guinea, and some comparisons with other sites. Am J Primatol 58:133-148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jaeggi AV, van Noordwijk MA, van Schaik CP (2008) Begging for information: mother-offspring food sharing among wild Bornean orangutans. Am J Primatol 70:533-541PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jaeggi AV, Dunkel LP, van Noordwijk MA, Wich SA, Sura AAL, van Schaik CP (2009) Social learning of diet and foraging skills by wild immature Bornean orangutans: implications for culture. Am J Primatol 72:62-71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kokko H, Johnstone RA, Clutton-Brock TH (2001) The evolution of cooperative breeding through group augmentation. Proc R Soc Lond B 268:187-196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Krakauer EB (2005) Development of Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) foraging skills: independent exploration and social learning. PhD thesis. Duke University, Durham/NCGoogle Scholar
  41. Krützen M, Mann J, Heithaus MR, Connor RC, Bejder L, Sherwin WB (2005) Cultural transmission of tool use in bottlenose dolphins. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102:8939-8943PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Laland KN (2004) Social learning strategies. Learn Behav 32:4-14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Laland KN, Kendal RL, Kendal JR (2009) Animal culture: problems and solutions. In: Laland KN, Galef BG Jr (eds) The Question of Animal Culture. Harvard University Press, Cambridge/MA, pp 174-197Google Scholar
  44. Lefebvre L, Palameta B, Hatch KK (1996) Is group-living associated with social learning? A comparative test of a gregarious and territorial columbid. Behaviour 133:241-261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lehner SR, Burkart JM, van Schaik CP (in press) An evaluation of the geographic method for recognizing innovations in nature, using zoo orangutans. PrimatesGoogle Scholar
  46. Lyons DE, Young AG, Keil FC (2007) The hidden structure of overimitation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104:19751-19756PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mann J, Sargent B (2003) Like mother, like calf: the ontogeny of foraging traditions in wild Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.). In: Fragaszy D, Perry S (eds) The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 236-266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marshall-Pescini S, Whiten A (2008) Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and the question of cumulative culture: an experimental approach. Anim Cogn 11:449-456PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Masur EF (1988) Infants’ imitation of novel and familiar behaviors. In: Zentall TR, Galef BG Jr (eds) Social Learning: Psychological and Biological Perspectives. Erlbaum, Hillsdale/NJ, pp 301-318Google Scholar
  50. Matsuzawa T, Biro D, Humle T, Inoue-Nakamura N, Tonooka R, Yamakoshi G (2001) Emergence of culture in wild chimpanzees: education by masterapprenticeship. In: Matsuzawa T (ed) Primate Origins of Human Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Tokyo, pp 557-574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Matthews LJ (2009) Intragroup behavioral variation in white-fronted capuchin monkeys (Cebus albifrons): mixed evidence for social learning inferred from new and established analytical methods. Behaviour 146:295-324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McGrew WC (2004) The Cultured Chimpanzee: Reflections on Cultural Primatology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Meltzoff AN, Kuhl PK, Movellan J, Sejnowski TJ (2009) Foundations for a new science of learning. Science 325:284-288PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mery F, Kawecki TJ (2004) An operating cost of learning in Drosophila melanogaster. Anim Behav 68:589-598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mettke-Hoffman C, Rowe KC, Hayden TJ, Canoine V (2006) Effects of experience and object complexity on exploration in garden warblers (Sylvia borin). J Zool 268:405-413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ottoni E, de Resende B, Izar P (2005) Watching the best nutcrackers: what capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) know about others’ tool-using skills. Anim Cogn 8:215-219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Page RA, Ryan MJ (2006) Social transmission of novel foraging behavior in bats: frog calls and their referents. Curr Biol 16:1201-1205PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Patricelli GL, Dantzker MS, Bradbury JW (2007) Differences in acoustic directionality among vocalizations of the male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius pheoniceus) are related to function in communication. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 61:1099-1110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pellegrini AD, Dupuis D, Smith PK (2007) Play in evolution and development. Dev Rev 27:261-276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Perry S (2009) Are nonhuman primates likely to exhibit cultural capacities like those of humans? In: Laland KN, Galef BG Jr (eds) The Question of Animal Culture. Harvard University Press, Cambridge/MA, pp 247-268Google Scholar
  61. Perry S, Ordoñez Jiménez JC (2006) The effects of food size, rarity, and processing complexity on white-faced capuchins’ visual attention to foraging conspecifics. In: Hohmann G, Robbins MM, Boesch C (eds) Feeding Ecology in Apes and Other Primates. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 203-234Google Scholar
  62. Perry S, Panger M, Rose LM, Baker M, Gros-Louis J, Jack K, MacKinnon KC, Manson J, Fedigan L, Pyle K (2003) Traditions in wild white-faced capuchin monkeys. In: Fragaszy DM, Perry S (eds) The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 391-425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Powell A, Shennan S, Thomas MG (2009) Late Pleistocene demography and the appearance of modern human behavior. Science 324:1298-1301PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Prather JF, Peters S, Nowicki S, Mooney R (2008) Precise auditory-vocal mirroring in neurons for learned vocal communication. Nature 451:305-310PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Quartz S (2003) Toward a developmental evolutionary psychology: genes, development and the evolution of cognitive architecture. In: Scher SJ, Rauscher M (eds) Evolutionary Psychology: Alternative Approaches. Kluwer, Boston, pp 185-210Google Scholar
  66. Ramsey G, Bastian ML, van Schaik CP (2007) Animal innovation defined and operationalized. Behav Brain Sci 30:393-437PubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Rapaport LG, Brown GR (2008) Social influences on foraging behavior in young nonhuman primates: learning what, where, and how to eat. Evol Anthropol 17:189-201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Reader SM, Laland KN (2002) Social intelligence, innovation, and enhanced brain size in primates. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:4436-4441PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Reader SM, Laland KN (2003) Animal Innovation. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  70. Rendell L, Whitehead H (2001) Culture in whales and dolphins. Behav Brain Sci 24:309-382PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Richerson PJ, Boyd R (2005) Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  72. Rizzolatti G (2005) The Mirror Neuron System and Imitation. MIT Press, Cambridge/MAGoogle Scholar
  73. Rogers AR (1988) Does biology constrain culture? Am Anthropol 90:819-831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Rowley I, Chapman G (1986) Cross-fostering, imprinting and learning in two sympatric species of cockatoo. Behaviour 96:1-16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Seyfarth RM, Cheney DL (1980) The ontogeny of vervet monkey alarm calling behavior: a preliminary report. Z Tierpsychol 54:37-56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Slagsvold T, Wiebe KL (2007) Learning the ecological niche. Proc R Soc Lond B 274:19-23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Subiaul F (2007) The imitation faculty in monkeys: evaluating its features, distribution and evolution. J Anthropol Sci 85:35-62Google Scholar
  78. Tarnaud L, Yamagiwa J (2008) Age-dependent patterns of intensive observation on elders by free-ranging juvenile Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui) within foraging context on Yakushima. Am J Primatol 70:1103-1113PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Terkel J (1996) Cultural transmission of feeding behavior in the black rat (Rattus rattus). In: Heyes CM, Galef BG Jr (eds) Social Learning in Animals: The Roots of Culture. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 17-47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Thornton A (2008) Social learning about novel foods in young meerkats. Anim Behav 76:1411-1421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tomasello M (1999) The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge/MAGoogle Scholar
  82. Ueno A, Matsuzawa T (2005) Response to novel food in infant chimpanzees: do infants refer to mothers before ingesting food on their own? Behav Proc 68:85-90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Valone TJ (2007) From eavesdropping on performance to copying the behavior of others: a review of public information use. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 62:1-14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. van Bergen Y, Coolen I, Laland KN (2004) Nine-spined sticklebacks exploit the most reliable source when public and private information conflict. Proc R Soc Lond B 271:957-962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. van der Post DJ, Hogeweg P (2006) Resource distributions and diet development by trial-and-error learning. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 61:65-80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. van Schaik CP (2003) Local traditions in orangutans and chimpanzees: social learning and social tolerance. In: Fragaszy DM, Perry S (eds) The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 297-328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. van Schaik CP (2004) Among Orangutans: Red Apes and the Rise of Human Culture. Harvard University Press, Belknap, Cambridge/MAGoogle Scholar
  88. van Schaik CP (2009) Geographic variation in the behavior of wild great apes: is it really cultural? In: Laland KN, Galef BG Jr (eds) The Question of Animal Culture. Harvard University Press, Cambridge/MA, pp 70-98Google Scholar
  89. van Schaik CP, Pradhan GR (2003) A model for tool-use traditions in primates: implications for the evolution of culture and cognition. J Hum Evol 44:645-664PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. van Schaik CP, Ancrenaz M, Borgen G, Galdikas BFM, Knott CD, Singleton I, Suzuki A, Utami SS, Merrill MY (2003) Orangutan cultures and the evolution of material culture. Science 299:102-105PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, Wich SA (2006) Innovation in wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii). Behaviour 143:839-876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Whitehead H (2009) How might we study culture? A perspective from the ocean. In: Laland KN, Galef BG Jr (eds) The Question of Animal Culture. Harvard University Press, Cambridge/MA, pp 125-151Google Scholar
  93. Whiten A, van Schaik CP (2007) The evolution of animal ‘cultures’ and social intelligence. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 362:603-620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Whiten A, Goodall J, McGrew WC, Nishida T, Reynolds V, Sugiyama Y, Tutin CEG, Wrangham RW, Boesch C (1999) Cultures in chimpanzees. Nature 399:682-685PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Whiten A, Horner V, Litchfield CA, Marshall-Pescini S (2004) How do apes ape? Learn Behav 32:36-52PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Whiten A, Horner V, de Waal FBM (2005) Conformity to cultural norms of tool use in chimpanzees. Nature 437:737-740PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Witte K (2006) Learning and mate choice. In: Brown C, Laland KN, Krause J (eds) Fish Cognition and Behaviour. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 70-95Google Scholar
  98. Zentall TR (2004) Action imitation in birds. Learn Behav 32:15-23PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carel P. van Schaik
    • 1
  1. 1.Anthropological Institute and MuseumUniversity of ZürichZürichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations