ASSORTATIVE SOCIAL LEARNING AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR HUMAN (AND ANIMAL?) SOCIETIES

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Abstract

Choosing from whom to learn is an important element of social learning. It affects learner success and the profile of behaviors in the population. Because individuals often differ in their traits and capabilities, their benefits from different behaviors may also vary. Homophily, or assortment, the tendency of individuals to interact with other individuals with similar traits, is known to affect the spread of behaviors in humans. We introduce models to study the evolution of assortative social learning (ASL), where assorting on a trait acts as an individual-specific mechanism for filtering relevant models from which to learn when that trait varies. We show that when the trait is polymorphic, ASL may maintain a stable behavioral polymorphism within a population (independently of coexistence with individual learning in a population). We explore the evolution of ASL when assortment is based on a nonheritable or partially heritable trait, and when ASL competes with different non-ASL strategies: oblique (learning from the parental generation) and vertical (learning from the parent). We suggest that the tendency to assort may be advantageous in the context of social learning, and that ASL might be an important concept for the evolutionary theory of social learning.

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