Visual learning admits different levels of complexity, from the formation of a simple associative link between a visual stimulus and its outcome, to more sophisticated performances, such as object categorization or rules learning, that allow flexible responses beyond simple forms of learning. Not surprisingly, higher-order forms of visual learning have been studied primarily in vertebrates with larger brains, while simple visual learning has been the focus in animals with small brains such as insects. This dichotomy has recently changed as studies on visual learning in social insects have shown that these animals can master extremely sophisticated tasks. Here we review a spectrum of visual learning forms in social insects, from color and pattern learning, visual attention, and top-down image recognition, to interindividual recognition, conditional discrimination, category learning, and rule extraction. We analyze the necessity and sufficiency of simple associations to account for complex visual learning in Hymenoptera and discuss possible neural mechanisms underlying these visual performances.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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