Thursday, November 23, 2017
Understanding of Tool Use and Conventionality


Do infants understand how to use tools?  Recent research suggests that even non-tool using primates understand the functional properties of tools, and we are interested in whether young infants also display this understanding. We use looking-time methods, as well as infants’ own behaviour, to investigate what they know about tool use.  For example, we show infants events in which tools are shown to be effective or ineffective in order to measure their expectations about the functionality of tools.  Additionally, we are interested in whether infants view tool-use as intentional.  Finally, we are interested in how infants and children understand tool-use to be conventional. Do they expect all individuals to use tools in the same way?  These studies consist of measuring expectations about tools using looking-time and eye-tracking methodologies, and by observing infants’ own behaviour when using tools and imitating tool-use in others.

Relevant Publications:

Boysen, S.T.; Kuhlmeier, V.A.; Halliday, P.; & Halliday, Y. (1999). Tool use in captive gorillas.
In: S. Parker, R.W. Mitchell & H.L. Miles (Eds.), The mentalities of gorillas and orangutans: Comparative perspectives (pp.179- 187). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Tzelnic, T., Kuhlmeier, V.A., Hauser, M. (Under review). Nine-month-old infants understand sharpness as a causal property.
Manuscript submitted for publication.

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