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Flashcards in Animal Behaviour- Social learning Deck (21)
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What is social learning?

Occurs when acquisition of a behavioural trait, T, by one individual, A, exerts a positive causal influence on the rate at which another individual, B, acquires or performs T
E.g- Bird A learns song T---> Bird B hears Bird A sing song ---> Bird B sing song T
Bird A pecks through milk bottle top to feed--->Bird B finds hole and feeds too---> bird B has associated bottle with feeding and learns to peck through (this is what is meant by the product of another individuals behaviour having an effect on another's learning)


What sort of learning is happening if environmental change is slow? medium? fast? (out of unlearned behaviour/natural selection/ asocial learning and social learning)

Natural selection/unlearned behaviour occurs when the rate of environmental change is slow
social behaviour occurs when it is medium
asocial behaviour is learnt when it is fast as social behaviour will be outdated by the time it spreads


The Demonstrator observer paradigm is a special case of the learning test seen in the previous lecture. Explain what happens in the observer phase and then the test phase.

Observer individuals (animal you're looking at) are placed with (or in a place next to so they can see) a 'demonstrator' which has been trained to do something
E.g rats see that when lever is pushed down, food reward

There is a separate place where the control group are placed next to a demonstrator that doesn't know how to do anything

When both observers placed in a testing area, if the first observer carries out the action faster or more efficiently then they have learnt a behaviour

This can be modified to work out which mechanism of learning is being used


Observational conditioning is just like Pavlovian conditioning but in a social context*. Explain how Curio proved this in his experiment with blackbirds.

*observational conditioning is the social equivalent to S-S or R-S conditioning in Pavlov's model

He used a modified version of the demonstrator observer paradigm where the observer could not see the demonstrator. The demonstrator black bird is presented with a stuffed owl which it recognises as a predator. It then proceeds to 'mobbing' behaviour and vocalisations. The observer hears this and also exhibits this mobbing to the bird it is presented to, the honeyeater (which is harmless). In the test phase, it is seen that the observer when presented to the honeyeater bird again, displays mobbing behaviour and now sees it as a danger


What did Curio's experiment show about transmission of behaviour?

That if another bird sees the observer bird's mobbing behaviour towards the harmless honeyeater, other black birds will learn this also towards the honeyeater


There are two types of imitation learning processes. One is called contextual imitation. Using an example, how can a two action test help us identify when this type is being used? How many connections in the bird's minds are being made during this?

Similar to demonstrator observer paradigm again however instead of a control, there are two demonstrators doing two different things e.g quail pecks at lever vs quail stepping on lever. In test phase, each group used the learnt action for the lever to release food. This shows two connections being made, not only that the lever gives food but the specific action that makes the lever do this


In contextual imitation, when an animals learns a certain action to activate the lever (e.g stepping) and that the lever gives them food, what is the connection called?

Action matching (correspondence problem)


How was it proven that quail's stepping on a lever for food may not be a specialised mechanism of learning and may actually just be from previous experience? What is meant by self-observation and stimulus generalisation?

The bird has already made a connection between its mental representation of stepping and the real life action of stepping by visual feedback. This is self-observation. Stimulus generalisation refers to the process in which when the bird sees the demonstrator stepping on the lever, even though it looks different to when it steps itself, they are very similar actions and therefore an association between the action of the demonstrator stepping and the bird itself stepping is made


What does perceptually transparent mean?

When watching someone else do an action, it is very similar to when you do it yourself


What does perceptually opaque mean?

When watching someone else do an action, it is not very similar than from your point of view whilst carrying out this action e.g pecking for a bird


How can a link be formed mentally through perceptually opaque behavioural synchrony?

Birds may peck with other birds so observe other birds pecking too. This would form a mental link between demonstrator pecking and pecking itself


How is production imitation different from contextual imitation?

In contextual imitation, the animals are not learning a brand new action, just learning to link an action to a new situation/context. Production imitation involves learning a novel action


How is production imitation learnt if the action has never been carried out before?

By linking together many known actions. They link the mental representation to motor representations and this is through vertical links. The observer can then form horizontal links between them to learn to do them in the order of the overall action


Name a few examples that exhibit social transmission (this could be good for essay).

Blue tits, chimps, macaques, meerkats, fish, dolphins, bumble bees; not surprising there is a large range as it is based on general learning processes


What did Whiten et al. show in his study exploring foraging behaviours between groups of chimps in Africa?

That they have different cultures. E.g chimps can display foraging of ants from ants nests using a stick (same foraging behaviour) but this can be done differently; one draws the stick through its fingers to catch them but others will nibble the ants off the stick


Why may Whiten's case not be as clear cut as what he proposes?

It may be due to different genetics or local ecology.
e.g cases where the chimps eating ants off the stick do this because the ants are more aggressive so it makes sense


How to rule out genetic contribution to the debate as to whether groups have cultures or not?

Translocation tests where same genetically made up animals are put in a different environment. E.g fish which display migration routes should show the same behaviour if it is just due to genetics


How do you use translocation tests to rule out ecological differences when testing culture?

Have to find two groups and swap the entire groups over to the other area. If the groups adopt the same mirgation sites/routes as the pop that has just been moved out, this suggests that it is due to the local ecology (in the study, they actually formed brand new ones which proved it was not the ecology but transmission/culture)


What are the two shapes of the diffusion curve analysis for asocial learning and social learning?

Asocial is a curve, there is a constant rate of learning as more individuals learn it until it plateaus due to all individuals having already learnt it (r-shape)
Social is a sigmoid shape, it takes a while to spread initially but as more and more learn it, it spreads more quickly until it plateaus (s-shape)


Are the r and s shapes of the diffusion curve analyses very well supported?

No, there are many instances when social learning could be and r-shape due to factors such as social structure where an animal is more likely to learn from some individuals than others


Why is network-based diffusion analysis more informative than diffusion curve analysis?

It considers the social structure of animals; who spends more time with who and therefore how quickly the behaviour will spread. Models can be tested to prove whether it is social (so will be affected by social structure) or whether it is asocial (and therefore independent of social structure). Other variables such as sex, inheritance, number of sightings etc. can be included too. This type of analysis was used on whale lobtail feeding