Social learning is fundamental to social life across the animal kingdom, but we still know little about how natural selection has shaped social learning abilities on a proximate level. Sometimes, complex social learning phenomena can be entirely explained by Pavlovian processes that have little to do with the evolution of sociality. This implies that the ability to learn socially could be an exaptation, not an adaptation, to social life but not that social learning abilities have been left untouched by natural selection. I discuss new empirical evidence for associative learning in social information use, explain how natural selection might facilitate the associative learning process and discuss why such studies are changing the way that we think about social learning.
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