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Social LearningAn Introduction to Mechanisms, Methods, and Models$
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William Hoppitt and Kevin N. Laland

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691150703

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691150703.001.0001

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A Brief History of Social Learning Research

A Brief History of Social Learning Research

(p.16) Chapter 2 A Brief History of Social Learning Research
Social Learning

William Hoppitt

Kevin N. Laland

Princeton University Press

This chapter provides a brief historical background to social learning research. The history of research into social learning and imitation dates back to Aristotle, who explicitly made the claim that animals acquire behavior through imitation and other forms of social learning. Aristotle was particularly impressed with the human imitative tendency. The three insights made in the fourth century BC—that humans are uncharacteristically reliant on imitative learning compared to other animals, that young children in particular acquire important aspects of their behavioral repertoire through copying, and that imitation appears intrinsically rewarding to children—are remarkably relevant to contemporary social learning research. The chapter examines how investigations of social learning have been central to research into the evolution of mind, the mechanisms of social learning, animal culture, the diffusion of innovations, child development, and cultural evolution.

Keywords:   social learning research, social learning, imitation, Aristotle, children, animal culture, diffusion of innovation, child development, cultural evolution

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