Comparative and evolutionary developmental analyses seek to discover the similarities and differences between humans and non-human species that illuminate both the evolutionary foundations of our nature that we share with other animals, and the distinctive characteristics that make human development unique. As our closest animal relatives, with whom we last shared common ancestry, non-human primates have beenparticularly important in this endeavour. Such studies that have focused on social learning, traditions, and culture have discovered much about the ‘how’ of social learning, concerned with key underlying processes such as imitation and emulation. One of the core discoveries is that the adaptive adjustment of social learning options to different contexts is not unique to human infants, therefore multiple new strands of research have begun to focus on more subtle questions about when, from whom, and why such learning occurs. Here we review illustrative studies on both human infants and young children and on non-human primates to identify the similarities shared more broadly across the primate order, and the apparent specialisms that distinguish human development. Adaptive biases in social learning discussed include those modulated by task comprehension, experience, conformity to majorities, and the age, skill, proficiency and familiarity of potential alternative cultural models.