Research into social learning (learning from others) has expanded significantly in recent years, not least because of productive interactions between theoretical and empirical approaches. This has been coupled with a new emphasis on learning strategies, which places social learning within a cognitive decision-making framework. Understanding when, how and why individuals learn from others is a significant challenge, but one that is critical to numerous fields in multiple academic disciplines, including the study of social cognition.
Clearly, the study of social learning strategies is a rapidly growing field with implications for multiple fields of research. The empirical studies reviewed here reveal the subtlety and complexity of the learning strategies used by humans. An important contribution of this work, in parallel with studies on non-humans, is to challenge the notion of a single best strategy, or a strategy associated with a particular type of individual, or species. Rather, recent work emphasizes instead the way in which the flexible context-dependent use of a range of subtle biases is a general feature of social learning, in both humans and other animals. Infuture, this should inspire theoretical researchers in turn to take on the challenge of incorporating meta-strategies into their models.