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      Focus on the success of others leads to selfish behavior.

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          It has often been argued that the spectacular cognitive capacities of humans are the result of selection for the ability to gather, process, and use information about other people. Recent studies show that humans strongly and consistently differ in what type of social information they are interested in. Although some individuals mainly attend to what the majority is doing (frequency-based learning), others focus on the success that their peers achieve with their behavior (success-based learning). Here, we show that such differences in social learning have important consequences for the outcome of social interactions. We report on a decision-making experiment in which individuals were first classified as frequency- and success-based learners and subsequently grouped according to their learning strategy. When confronted with a social dilemma situation, groups of frequency-based learners cooperated considerably more than groups of success-based learners. A detailed analysis of the decision-making process reveals that these differences in cooperation are a direct result of the differences in information use. Our results show that individual differences in social learning strategies are crucial for understanding social behavior.

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          Social learning strategies.

          In most studies of social learning in animals, no attempt has been made to examine the nature of the strategy adopted by animals when they copy others. Researchers have expended considerable effort in exploring the psychological processes that underlie social learning and amassed extensive data banks recording purported social learning in the field, but the contexts under which animals copy others remain unexplored. Yet, theoretical models used to investigate the adaptive advantages of social learning lead to the conclusion that social learning cannot be indiscriminate and that individuals should adopt strategies that dictate the circumstances under which they copy others and from whom they learn. In this article, I discuss a number of possible strategies that are predicted by theoretical analyses, including copy when uncertain, copy the majority, and copy if better, and consider the empirical evidence in support of each, drawing from both the animal and human social learning literature. Reliance on social learning strategies may be organized hierarchically, their being employed by animals when unlearned and asocially learned strategies prove ineffective but before animals take recourse in innovation.
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            Animal personalities: consequences for ecology and evolution.

            Personality differences are a widespread phenomenon throughout the animal kingdom. Past research has focused on the characterization of such differences and a quest for their proximate and ultimate causation. However, the consequences of these differences for ecology and evolution received much less attention. Here, we strive to fill this gap by providing a comprehensive inventory of the potential implications of personality differences, ranging from population growth and persistence to species interactions and community dynamics, and covering issues such as social evolution, the speed of evolution, evolvability, and speciation. The emerging picture strongly suggests that personality differences matter for ecological and evolutionary processes (and their interaction) and, thus, should be considered a key dimension of ecologically and evolutionarily relevant intraspecific variation. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              The cultural niche: why social learning is essential for human adaptation.

              In the last 60,000 y humans have expanded across the globe and now occupy a wider range than any other terrestrial species. Our ability to successfully adapt to such a diverse range of habitats is often explained in terms of our cognitive ability. Humans have relatively bigger brains and more computing power than other animals, and this allows us to figure out how to live in a wide range of environments. Here we argue that humans may be smarter than other creatures, but none of us is nearly smart enough to acquire all of the information necessary to survive in any single habitat. In even the simplest foraging societies, people depend on a vast array of tools, detailed bodies of local knowledge, and complex social arrangements and often do not understand why these tools, beliefs, and behaviors are adaptive. We owe our success to our uniquely developed ability to learn from others. This capacity enables humans to gradually accumulate information across generations and develop well-adapted tools, beliefs, and practices that are too complex for any single individual to invent during their lifetime.

                Author and article information

                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
                Mar 3 2015
                : 112
                : 9
                [1 ] Theoretical Biology Group, University of Groningen, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands; and.
                [2 ] Theoretical Biology Group, University of Groningen, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands; and The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, United Kingdom.
                [3 ] Theoretical Biology Group, University of Groningen, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands; and F.J.Weissing@rug.nl.

                cooperation,cultural evolution,individual differences,personality,social learning


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