Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Adaptive Learning

  • Christopher A. Treece
  • Stephanie A. KazanasEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2123-1



A category of learning strategies which promotes an individual’s assimilation of successful behaviors, traits, and skills, increasing an individual’s level of fitness in a given environment


A construct of interest to both the fields of developmental and evolutionary psychology is Adaptive Learning, sometimes referred to as adaptive plasticity, which some researchers have labeled as an overarching category of learning strategies that contribute to an individual’s level of fitness in a given environment (Kameda and Nakanishi 2002). Currently, adaptive learning has been reviewed within the context of its relationship to the Baldwin effect, which states that the utilization of Adaptive Learning increases the rate at which a species undergoes evolutionary changes to the phenotype (Sznajder et al. 2012). However, this entry seeks to...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men (pp. 177–190). Pittsburgh: Carnegie Press.Google Scholar
  2. Atkisson, C., O’Brien, M. J., & Mesoudi, A. (2012). Adult learners in a novel environment use prestige-biased social learning. Evolutionary Psychology, 10(3), 519–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, J., & Forstmeier, W. (2007). Superstition and belief as inevitable by-products of adaptive learning strategy. Human Nature, 18(1), 35–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chudek, M., Heller, S., Birch, S., & Henrich, J. (2012). Prestige-biased cultural learning: Bystander’s differential attention to potential models influences children’s learning. Evolution of Human Behavior, 33(1), 46–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Evans, C. L., Laland, K. N., Carpenter, M., & Kendal, R. L. (2018). Selective copying of the majority suggests children are broadly “optimal-” rather than “over-” imitators. Developmental Science, 21(5), e12637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gervais, W. M., & Najle, M. B. (2015). Learned faith: The influences of evolved cultural learning mechanisms on the belief in gods. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 7(4), 327–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Haun, D. B. M., Reckers, Y., & Tomasello, M. (2014). Children conform to the behavior of peers; other great apes stick with what they know. Psychological Science, 25(12), 2160–2167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Henrich, J., & Broesch, J. (2011). On the nature of the cultural transmission networks: Evidence from Fijian villages for adaptive learning biases. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 366, 1139–1148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kameda, T., & Nakanishi, D. (2002). Cost-benefit analysis of social/cultural learning in a nonstationary uncertain environment an evolutionary simulation and an experiment with human subjects. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 373–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lew-Levy, S., & Boyette, A. H. (2018). Evidence for the adaptive learning function of work and work-themed play among Aka forager and Ngandu farmer children from the Congo basin. Human Nature, 29, 157–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Morgan, T. J. H., Laland, K. N., & Harris, P. L. (2015). The development of adaptive conformity in young children: Effects of uncertainty and consensus. Developmental Science, 18(4), 511–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Muthukrishna, M., Morgan, T. J. H., & Henrich, J. (2015). The when and who of social learning and conformist transmission. Evolution of Human Behavior, 37(1), 10–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Sznajder, B., Sabelis, M. W., & Egas, M. (2012). How adaptive learning affects evolution: Reviewing theory on the Baldwin effect. Evolutionary Biology, 39(3), 301–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling and PsychologyTennessee Technological UniversityCookevilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Karin Machluf
    • 1
  1. 1.Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA