During the past decade there has been a marked increase in the number of North American and European laboratories engaged in the study of social learning. As a consequence, evidence is rapidly accumulating that in animals, as in humans, social Interaction plays an important role in facilitating development of adaptive patterns of behavior.
In many cases, studies of social learning appear to have been initiated independently by researchers who began with an interest in individual acquisition of a particular behavioral capacity and only later recognized the importance of social learning in the development of that behavior. For example, research on the social basis of bird-song dialect learning grew out of a long tradition of research on the functions of bird vocalizations. Similarly, interest in the role of social cues in the development of feeding behavior arose from research on the involvement of individual learning in diet selection. Because investigations of social learning research have often started from very different research literatures and perspectives, it is not surprising that the study of social learning as a general phenomenon is highly segmented. Experimenters are isolated both by the phenomena they study and by the species with which they work. The process of creating a coherent field out of the diversity of current social learning research is likely to be both long and difficult. It is our hope, however, that the present volume may prove a useful first step in bringing order to a diverse field.
The idea for this book grew from the premise that researchers who study