Animals use heuristic strategies to determine from which conspecifics to learn socially. This leads to directed social learning. Directed social learning protects them from copying non-adaptive information. So far, the strategies of animals, leading to directed social learning, are assumed to rely on (possibly indirect) inferences about the demonstrator's success. As an alternative to this assumption, we propose a strategy that only uses self-established estimates of the pay-offs of behavior. We evaluate the strategy in a number of agent-based simulations. Critically, the strategy's success is warranted by the inclusion of an incremental learning mechanism. Our findings point out new theoretical opportunities to regulate social learning for animals. More broadly, our simulations emphasize the need to include a realistic learning mechanism in game-theoretic studies of social learning strategies, and call for re-evaluation of previous findings.