abstract Ludwig Huber

Ludwig Huber (Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University of Vienna and University of Vienna, Austria)

Comparative cognition: towards a broader and deeper view on social learning

In this talk I want to review several studies on social learning in non-human animals that share an irritating feature, they don’t fit into the dominant, anthropocentric theories of social learning. Tortoises show clear evidence of learning a difficult spatial problem by observing a conspecific model despite the fact that they are solitary. Archer fish and common marmosets exhibit high fidelity copying of movement patterns of a conspecific model, thereby solving the correspondence problem of imitation (transforming visual information into matching motor acts). Keas emulate the model's goal and learn about the affordances of the involved objects. And dogs seem able to imitate — at least in ostensive-communicative contexts — selectively. They also exhibit deferred imitation and goal emulation. Together these data suggest that several core components of human cultural learning, such as high copying fidelity, intentional inhibition and selectivity, are shared by many species. It is therefore likely that these behaviours emerge from general learning abilities rather than from specific mechanisms of advanced (human) sociality.