The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "Dynamic social learning in temporally and spatially variable environments"

Posted on 2020-11-26 - 03:24
Cultural evolution is partly driven by the strategies individuals use to learn behaviour from others. Previous experiments on strategic learning let groups of participants engage in repeated rounds of a learning task and analysed how choices are affected by individual payoffs and the choices of group members. While groups in such experiments are fixed, natural populations are dynamic, characterized by overlapping generations, frequent migrations and different levels of experience. We present a preregistered laboratory experiment with 237 mostly German participants including migration, differences in expertise and both spatial and temporal variation in optimal behaviour. We used simulation and multilevel computational learning models including time-varying parameters to investigate adaptive time dynamics in learning. Confirming theoretical predictions, individuals relied more on (conformist) social learning after spatial compared to temporal changes. After both types of change, they biased decisions towards more experienced group members. While rates of social learning rapidly declined in rounds following migration, individuals remained conformist to group-typical behaviour. These learning dynamics can be explained as adaptive responses to different informational environments. Summarizing, we provide empirical insights and introduce modelling tools that hopefully can be applied to dynamic social learning in other systems.


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