Social Learning: Synergy and Songbirds
MEREDITH J. WEST
ANDREW P. KING
Department of Psychology
Bloomington, Indiana 47405
W hen Thorndike placed animals in puzzle boxes, we suspect that he watched the actions of the animals more than he watched the actions of the boxes (Thorndike, 1911/1965). After all, he had fashioned the boxes to do certain things, so that he could measure objectively animals' capacities to solve problems. Similarly, one attraction of Skinner boxes is presumably that their behavior is programmed, allowing investigators to focus on the animal. This is not to say that the animals' interactions with such devices are always as predictable as one might hope, but that the animal's degrees of freedom are constrained while it is interacting within the apparatus (Breland & Breland, 1961).
Those studying social learning face a dilemma: they typically watch at least two or more animate "puzzle boxes," neither of which they have designed. Such investigators may go to considerable lengths to achieve some proximate control of one or both subjects, by manipulating motivation, controlling rearing, limiting physical access (e.g., one-way mirrors), or changing levels of consciousness (e.g., anesthetizing one "puzzle"). But ultimately, the success of studies of social learning depends on an investigator's ability to decipher synergy, i.e., to detect and measure outcomes from more than one perspective.
In the accounts of our research provided here, we have attempted to focus on