A social insect perspective on the evolution of social learning mechanisms

Ellouise Leadbeater, Erika Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

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The social world offers a wealth of opportunities to learn from others, and across the animal kingdom individuals capitalize on those opportunities. Here, we explore the role of natural selection in shaping the processes that underlie social information use, using a suite of experiments on social insects as case studies. We illustrate how an associative framework can encompass complex, context-specific social learning in the insect world and beyond, and based on the hypothesis that evolution acts to modify the associative process, suggest potential pathways by which social information use could evolve to become more efficient and effective. Social insects are distant relatives of vertebrate social learners, but the research we describe highlights routes by which natural selection could coopt similar cognitive raw material across the animal kingdom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7838–7845
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2017

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