Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't.
Is imitation the simplest form of learning? It doesn't seem that way. This piece compares how young children learn to solve a puzzle with how chimpanzees learn to solve the same puzzle. Money quote:
Mr. Lyons sees his results as evidence that humans are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not the best way to learn. If he is right, this represents a big evolutionary change from our ape ancestors. Other primates are bad at imitation. When they watch another primate doing something, they seem to focus on what its goals are and ignore its actions.
As human ancestors began to make complicated tools, figuring out goals might not have been good enough anymore. Hominids needed a way to register automatically what other hominids did, even if they didn't understand the intentions behind them. They needed to imitate.