• social learning;
  • imitation;
  • cognition;
  • memory;
  • conditioning


Social learning involves the acquisition of information from other individuals and is a behavioural strategy found in a wide range of taxa from insects to humans. Traditionally, research in this field has concentrated on learning from members of the same species; however, there is increasing evidence for social learning across species boundaries. Owing to the ecological overlap of many species, it makes sense that such heterospecific social learning is common, and in some cases, information from another species may be more profitable than that provided by members of the same species. Here, we review the existing literature about learning from individuals of different species. We discuss the cognitive mechanisms underlying this form of information gathering and highlight the importance of past experience and innate predispositions in the formation of interspecific learning events. In many cases, seemingly complex forms of ‘copying’ from members of other species can be explained by relatively simple forms of conditioning.