Highlights ► We respond to Byrne & Rapaport’s Commentary (2011, Animal Behaviour, 82, 1207–1211). ► The functional definition of teaching does not hinder understanding of human teaching. ► The definition helps us detect teaching, allowing tests of the cognitive mechanisms. ► Within-subjects analyses can identify cases where teachers assist slow learners. ► Domain-general mechanisms of human teaching can be studied in nonteaching species.