Testing the variability selection hypothesis - The adoption of social learning in increasingly variable environments

James Borg*, Alastair Channon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication

Abstract

The variability selection hypothesis predicts the adoption of versatile behaviors and survival strategies, in response to increasingly variable environments. In hominin evolution the most apparent adaptation for versatility is the adoption of social learning. The hypothesis that social learning will be adopted over other learning strategies, such as individual learning, when individuals are faced with increasingly variable environments is tested here using a genetic algorithm with steady state selection and constant population size. Individuals, constituted of binary string genotypes and phenotypes, are evaluated on their ability to match a target binary string, nominally known as the environment, with success being measured by the Hamming distance between the phenotype and environment. The state of any given locus in the environment is determined by a sine wave, the frequency of which increases as the simulation progresses thus providing increasing environmental variability. Populations exhibiting combinations of genetic evolution, individual learning and social learning are tested, with the learning rates of both individual and social learning allowed to evolve. We show that increasingly variable environments are sufficient but not necessary to provide an evolutionary advantage to those populations exhibiting the extra-genetic learning strategies, with social learning being favored over individual learning when populations are allowed to explore both strategies simultaneously. We also introduce a more biologically realistic model that allows for population collapse, and show that here the prior adoption of individual learning is a prerequisite for the successful adoption of social learning in increasingly variable environments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationALIFE 13: The Thirteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems
PublisherMIT Press Journals
Pages317-324
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012
EventArtificial Life 2012: The Thirteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems - Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, United States
Duration: 19 Jul 201222 Jul 2012
https://web.archive.org/web/20121024132409/http://alife13.org/

Conference

ConferenceArtificial Life 2012: The Thirteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems
Abbreviated titleALIFE 2012
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityEast Lansing, MI
Period19/07/1222/07/12
Internet address

Keywords

  • Variability Selection
  • Environmental Variability
  • Social Learning

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