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Imitation and Social Learning

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Copying, acquiring knowledge within a group


Imitation is the act of copying the behavior of someone observed. It is the most common learning rule and, as behavior, can be observed among animals (Galef and Laland 2005) as well as among humans (Apesteguia et al. 2007; Horner and Whiten 2005). Not to imitate means to experiment or innovate, to try something new instead of choosing one of the behaviors that has been observed.

To learn means to acquire knowledge or understanding. Social learning is about learning within a social group as opposed to individual learning where only the learning of a single person is considered. Concern is for how individuals within the group learn, and hence how the whole group learns. Social learning does not require that individuals within the group actively change their understanding about the environment. To exhibit learning as a group, it is already sufficient that more within the group adapt a superior action.

Theoretical Background


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Correspondence to Karl H. Schlag .

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© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

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Schlag, K.H. (2012). Imitation and Social Learning. In: Seel, N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA.

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