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While social learning is widespread, indiscriminate copying of others is rarely beneficial. Theory suggests individuals should be selective in what, when and whom they copy, by following “social learning strategies” (SLSs). The SLS concept has stimulated extensive experimental work, integrated theory and empirical findings, and created impetus to the social learning and cultural evolution fields. However, the SLS concept needs updating to accommodate recent findings that individuals switch between strategies flexibly, that multiple strategies are deployed simultaneously, and that there is no one-to-one correspondence between psychological heuristics deployed and resulting population-level patterns. The field would also benefit from simultaneous study of mechanism and function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-665
Number of pages15
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number7
Early online date11 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Asocial information
  • Associative learning theory
  • Behavioural gambit
  • Cumulative culture
  • Metacognition
  • Social information


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