Social learning is the mechanism by which humans transmit information between individuals through public displays, and this plays a key role in the formation and stabilisation of cultural traditions. However, despite the importance of this learning for understanding cultural transmission, the psychological processes in single transmission episodes are often unclear. This means that the same behaviour may be interpreted as either high-fidelity copying or pragmatic reconstruction, which posit different predictions about the underlying processes. We present a methodological approach that can distinguish between these two processes by exploiting changes in context. This approach can not only identify learning processes at the level of single transmission episodes, but may also help to elucidate the content of socially learned mental representations.