Modeling imitation and emulation in constrained search spaces

Journal Article

Social transmission of behavior can be realized through distinct mechanisms. Research on primate social learning typically distinguishes two forms of information that a learner can extract from a demonstrator: copying actions (defined as imitation) or copying only the consequential results (defined as emulation). We propose a decomposition of these learning mechanisms (plus pure individual learning) that incorporates the core idea that social learning can be represented as a search for an optimal behavior that is constrained by different kinds of information. We illustrate our approach with an individual-based model in which individuals solve tasks in "spaces" that represent behavioral actions, results, and benefits of those results. Depending on the learning mechanisms at their disposal, individuals have differential access to the information conveyed in these spaces. We show how different classes of tasks may provide distinct advantages to individuals with different learning mechanisms and discuss how our approach contributes to current empirical and theoretical research on social learning and culture. © 2010 Psychonomic Society, Inc.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Acerbi, A; Tennie, C; Nunn, CL

Published Date

  • 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 39 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 104 - 114

PubMed ID

  • 21264559

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1543-4494

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3758/s13420-010-0009-z