Animals can use their environments more efficiently by selecting particular sources of information (personal or social), according to specific situations. Group-living animals may benefit from gaining information based on the behaviour of other individuals. Indeed, social information is assumed to be faster and less costly to use than personal information, thus increasing foraging efficiency. However, when food sources change seasonally or are randomly distributed, individual information may become more reliable than social information. The aim of this study was to test the use of conflicting personal versus social information in goats (Capra hircus), in a foraging task.We found that goats relied more on personal than social information, when both types of information were available and in conflict.No effect of social rank was found on the occasions when goats followed other demonstrator goats. Goats are selective browsers/grazers and therefore relying on personal rather than social information could be the most efficient way to find patchily distributed resources in highly variable environments. Studies testing specific assumptions regarding the use of different sources of information can extend our understanding of decision making, including observed patterns of social learning.
Baciadonna et al. (2013), Goats favour personal over social information in an experimental foraging task. PeerJ 1:e172