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Keywords:

  • Cumulative cultural evolution;
  • optimal learning;
  • life history;
  • Rogers’ paradox

The age-dependent choice between expressing individual learning (IL) or social learning (SL) affects cumulative cultural evolution. A learning schedule in which SL precedes IL is supportive of cumulative culture because the amount of nongenetically encoded adaptive information acquired by previous generations can be absorbed by an individual and augmented. Devoting time and energy to learning, however, reduces the resources available for other life-history components. Learning schedules and life history thus coevolve. Here, we analyze a model where individuals may have up to three distinct life stages: “infants” using IL or oblique SL, “juveniles” implementing IL or horizontal SL, and adults obtaining material resources with learned information. We study the dynamic allocation of IL and SL within life stages and how this coevolves with the length of the learning stages. Although no learning may be evolutionary stable, we find conditions where cumulative cultural evolution can be selected for. In that case, the evolutionary stable learning schedule causes individuals to use oblique SL during infancy and a mixture between IL and horizontal SL when juvenile. We also find that the selected pattern of oblique SL increases the amount of information in the population, but horizontal SL does not do so.