The cognitive ontogeny of tool making in children: The role of inhibition and hierarchical structuring

Gökhan Gönül
Université de Neuchâtel
During the last decade, the ontogeny of tool making has received growing attention in the literature on tool-related behaviors. However, the cognitive demands underlying tool making are still not clearly understood. In this cross-sectional study of 52 Turkish preschool children from 3 to 6 years of age, the roles of executive function (response inhibition), ability to form hierarchical representations (hierarchical structuring), and social learning were investigated with the hook task previously used with children and animals. In this task, children needed to bend a pipe cleaner to fetch a small bucket with a sticker out of a tall jar. This study replicated earlier findings that preschoolers have great difficulty in tool innovation. However, social learning facilitates tool making, especially after 5 years of age. Capacities to form hierarchical representations and to inhibit prepotent responses were significant positive predictors of tool making after social learning.
Keywords Tool innovation  Tool making  Tool manipulation  Response inhibition  Hierarchical representation  Ontogeny
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