Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Byrne & Russon: Learning by imitation

Emulation learning and cultural learning

Michael Tomasello a1
a1 Department of Psychology and Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322


Byrne & Russon redefine the process of emulation learning as “goal emulation” and thereby distort its most distinctive characteristic: the criterion that the observer focuses on environmental rather than behavioral processes. The two empirical examples recounted – gorilla plant processing and orangutan manipulation of human artifacts – are hierarchically organized behaviors, but there is very little evidence that they involve imitative learning, program-level or otherwise.