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The last decade has seen a burgeoning interest in studying the neural and computational mechanisms that underpin social learning (learning from others). Many findings support the view that learning from other people is underpinned by the same, ‘domain-general’, mechanisms underpinning learning from non-social stimuli. Despite this, the idea that humans possess social-specific learning mechanisms - adaptive specializations moulded by natural selection to cope with the pressures of group living - persists. In this talk I explore the persistence of this idea. First, I present dissociations between social and non-social learning - patterns of data which are difficult to explain under the domain-general thesis and which therefore contribute to the persistence of the adaptive specialisation view. However, I argue that most studies that have dissociated social and non-social learning have employed paradigms in which social information comprises a secondary, additional, source of information that can be used to supplement learning from non-social stimuli. Thus, in most extant paradigms, social and non-social learning differ both in terms of social nature (social or non-social) and status (primary or secondary). I conclude that status is an important driver of apparent differences between social and non-social learning and, when accounted for, there is insufficient evidence to conclude with any certainty that there are special mechanisms for specifically social learning.

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