Seeing the forest for the trees: What infants’ responses to plants reveal about the evolution of social learning systems
Plants have been central to human life across evolutionary time as sources of food and raw materials for a variety of uses. However, plants also manufacture potentially dangerous chemical and physical defenses to protect themselves from herbivores. These circumstances create a fundamental problem: How does each individual human learn which plants in her local environment are food and which plants are fatal? In this talk, I will argue that the human mind contains social learning mechanisms specialized for acquiring information about plants. I will present evidence from a series of studies with human infants exploring this proposal.