Social Learning, Intelligence, and Brain Evolution

Sally E. Street*, Kevin N. Laland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


Summary: Social learning-learning influenced by observation of, or interaction with, other animals -allows individuals to acquire information, concerning, for instance, the location and quality of food, mates, predators, rivals, and pathways, as well as foraging techniques, vocalizations and a variety of social behavior. Intelligence can be broadly defined as a cross-domain measure of cognitive ability in learning, problem-solving and abstract reasoning, characterized by behavioral flexibility. Trends in vertebrate brain size evolution commonly follow simple allometric scaling rules, with individual brain regions evolving in concert with each other. Theoretical analyses demonstrate that cumulative culture and high-fidelity copying are mutually reinforcing. Currently, the nature of the relationship between social learning, brain size, and cognition is poorly understood. Theoretical models have shown that social learning is not always beneficial and can be costly, due to the risks of copying errors, receiving bad information, and information becoming outdated in a changing environment.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Evolutionary Neuroscience
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781118316757
ISBN (Print)9781119994695
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2016


  • Abstract reasoning ability
  • Allometric scaling rule
  • Behavioral flexibility
  • Brain evolution
  • Cognitive ability
  • Intelligence
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Social behavior
  • Social learning


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