Mathematical derivations and supplemental figures from The importance of life history and population regulation for the evolution of social learning
Social learning and life history interact in human adaptation, but nearly all models of the evolution of social learning omit age structure and population regulation. Further progress is hindered by a poor appreciation of how life history affects selection on learning. We discuss why life history and age structure are important for social learning and present an exemplary model of the evolution of social learning in which demographic properties of the population arise endogenously from
... ns about per capita vital rates and different forms of population regulation. We find that, counterintuitively, a stronger reliance on social learning is favoured in organisms characterized by 'fast' life histories with high mortality and fertility rates compared to 'slower' life histories typical of primates. Long life spans make early investment in learning more profitable and increase the probability that the environment switches within generations. Both effects favour more individual learning. Additionally, under fertility regulation (as opposed to mortality regulation), more juveniles are born shortly after switches in the environment when many adults are not adapted creating selection for more individual learning. To explain the empirical association between social learning and long life spans and to appreciate the implications for human evolution, we need further modelling frameworks allowing strategic learning and cumulative culture.This article is part of the theme issue 'Life history and learning: how childhood, caregiving and old age shape cognition and culture in humans and other animals'.