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Group level effects of social versus individual learning
Jürgen Jost and Wei Li
We study the effects of learning by imitating others within the framework of an iterated game in which the members of two complementary populations interact via random pairing at each round. This allows us to compare both the fitness of different strategies within a population and the performance of populations in which members have access to different types of strategies. Previous studies reveal some emergent dynamics at the population level when players learn individually. We here investigate a different mechanism in which players can choose between two different learning strategies, individual or social. Imitating behavior can spread within a mixed population, with the frequency of imitators varying over generation time. When compared to a pure population with solely individual learners, a mixed population with both individual- and social learners can do better, independently of the precise learning scheme employed. We can then search for the best imitating strategy. Imitating the neighbor with the highest payoff turns out to be consistently superior. This is in agreement with findings in experimental and model studies that have been carried out in different settings.