This chapter begins with a discussion of the significance of studies of aspects of tool use in understanding causal cognition. It argues that tool use studies reveal the most basic type or causal understanding being put to use, in a way that studies that focus on learning statistical relationships between cause and effect or studies of perceptual causation do not. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
This article has two goals. First, it synthesizes and critically assesses current scientific knowledge about the cognitive bases of human tool use. Second, it shows how the cognitive traits reviewed help to explain why technological accumulation evolved so markedly in humans, and so modestly in apes.
What cognitive abilities underpin the use of tools, and how are tools and their properties represented or understood by tool-users? Does the study of tool use provide us with a unique or distinctive source of information about the causal cognition of tool-users? -/- Tool use is a topic of major interest to all those interested in animal cognition, because it implies that the animal has knowledge of the relationship between objects and their effects. There are countless (...) examples of animals developing tools to achieve some goal-chimps sharpening sticks to use as spears, bonobos using sticks to fish for termites, and New Caledonian crows developing complex tools to extracts insects from logs. Studies of tool use have been used to examine an exceptionally wide range of aspects of cognition, such as planning, problem-solving and insight, naive physics, social relationship between action and perception. A key debate in recent research on animal cognition concerns the level of cognitive sophistication that is implied by animal tool use, and developmental psychologists have been addressing related questions regarding the processes through which children acquire the ability to use tools. In neuropsychology, patterns of impairments in tool use due to brain damage, and studies of neural changes associated with tool use, have also led to debates about the different types of cognitive abilities that might underpin tool use, and about how tool use may change the way space or the body is represented. -/- Tool Use and Causal Cognition provides a new interdisciplinary perspective on these issues with contributions from leading psychologists studying tool use and philosophers providing new analyses of the nature of causal understanding A ground-breaking volume which covers several disciplines, this volume will be of interest to psychologists, including animal researchers and developmental psychologists as well as philosophers, and neuroscientists. (shrink)
This chapter considers in what sense, if any, planning and future thinking is involved both in the sort of behaviour examined by McCarty et al. (1999) and in the sort of behaviour measured by researchers creating versions of Tulving's spoon test. It argues that mature human planning and future thinking involves a particular type of temporal cognition, and that there are reasons to be doubtful as to whether either of those two approaches actually assesses this type of cognition. To anticipate, (...) it argues that there is a commonsense notion of planning according to which planning involves event-independent thought about time. It also argues that thinking about the future involves the ability to think about the potential temporal locations of events within a linear temporal framework in which temporal locations are unique rather than repeated. (shrink)
This paper explores some general questions about the sorts of abilities that are involved in tool use and “causal cognition”, both in humans and in non-human primates. An attempt is made to relate the empirical literature on these topics to various philosophical theories of causation.
Tool use rivals language as an important domain of cognitive phenomena, and so as a source of insight into the nature of cognition in general. But the favoured current definition of tool use is inadequate because it does not carve the phenomena of interest at the joints. Heidegger's notion of equipment provides a more adequate theoretical framework. But Heidegger's account leads directly to a non-individualist view of the nature of cognition. Thus non-individualism is supported by concrete considerations about (...) the nature of tools and tool use. (shrink)
According to some phenomenologists, a tool can be experienced as incorporated when, as a result of habitual use or deliberate practice, someone is able to manipulate it without conscious effort. In this article, we specifically focus on the experience of expertise tool use in elite sport. Based on a case study of elite rope skipping, we argue that the phenomenological concept of incorporation does not suffice to adequately describe how expert tool users feel when interacting with their (...) tools. By analyzing a combination of insights gained from participant observation of 11 elite rope skippers and autoethnographic material from one former elite skipper, we take some initial steps toward the development of a more nuanced understanding of the concept of incorporation; one that is able to accommodate the experiences of expert tool users. In sum, our analyses indicate that the possibility for experiencing a tool as incorporated depends on the existence of an extraordinary kind of relationship between th... (shrink)
Plasticity of body representation fundamentally underpins human tool use. Recent studies have demonstrated remarkably complex plasticity of body representation in humans, showing that such plasticity (1) occurs flexibly across multiple time scales and (2) involves multiple body representations responding differently to tool use. Such findings reveal remarkable sophistication of body plasticity in humans, suggesting that Vaesen may overestimate the similarity of such mechanisms in humans and non-human primates.
A comparative fMRI study by Peeters et al. (2009) provided evidence that a specific sector of left inferior parietal lobule is devoted to tool use in humans, but not in monkeys. We propose that this area represents the neural substrate of the human capacity to understand tool use by using causal reasoning.
In this paper, I question the notion that tool-use must be driven by an internal representation which specifies the “motor program” enacted in the behaviour of the tool-user. Rather, it makes more sense to define tool-use in terms of characteristics of the dynamics of this behaviour. As the behaviour needs to be adjusted to suit changes in context, so there is unlikely to be a one-to-one, linear mapping between an action and its effect. Thus, tool-use can (...) best be described using concepts from Nonlinear Dynamics. Such an approach can be used to create a sort of cybernetic model of tool-use. However, there is a danger that such a model can either lead us back to internal representations or could fail to capture cognitive aspects of behaviour. In particular, the question of how the craftworker’s intent can be enacted in the use of tools to produce a specific object seems to be lost in the cybernetic account. My solution is two-fold. First, the “model” is created on-the-fly and adapted through moment-by-moment interactions in the system of tool-user–tool–material–environment. This means that, rather than assuming a pre-defined internal representation that drives behaviour, I propose that cognition involves the selection of salient parameters that characterize the behaviour and the continued monitoring and management of behaviour in terms of these parameters. Second, intent is only loosely defined a priori but crystallizes through the continued interactions between craftworker and object through a process in which the affordances of the object become apparent to, and responded to by, the craftworker. (shrink)
Human life history incorporates childhood, a lengthy post-weaning period of dependency. This species-specific period provides an opportunity for extensive learning and for sophisticated cultural behaviors to develop, including crucial tool use skills. Although I agree that no individual cognitive trait singularly differentiates humans from other animals, I suggest here that without childhood, the traits that are key to human tool use would not emerge.
The author describes and sociocognitive skills that he argues as being necessary for tool use. We propose that those skills could be based on simpler detection systems humans could share with other animal tool users. More specifically, we discuss the impact of object affordances on the understanding and the social learning of tool use.
To what extent do keas, Nestor notabilis , learn from each other? We tested eighteen captive keas, New Zealand parrots, in a tool use task involving visual feature discrimination and social learning. The keas were presented with two adjacent tubes, each containing a physically distinct baited platform. One platform could be collapsed by insertion of a block into the tube to release the bait; the other platform could not be collapsed. In contrast to birds that acted on their own (...) (“individual learners“), birds that could observe a demonstrator bird operated the collapsible platform first. However, they soon changed their behaviour to inserting blocks indiscriminately in either tube. When we reversed the collapsibility of the platforms, only adult observers but neither their demonstrators that had individually learnt nor the juveniles immediately altered their former preference. Observers, however, did not simply reverse their initial preference but rather moved to and then stayed at a chance performance as to where to insert a block first. In conclusion, the keas' overt exploration soon overrode the effect of social learning. We argue that such behaviour might help keas to find more efficient extractive foraging techniques in their native variable, low-risk environment. Keywords: tool use behaviour; social learning; reversal learning; physical cognition. (shrink)
In his attempt to find cognitive traits that set humans apart from nonhuman primates with respect to tool use, Vaesen overlooks the primacy of the environment toward the use of which behavior evolves. The occurrence of a particular behavior is a result of how that behavior has evolved in a complex and changing environment selected by a unique population.
This paper is discusses some central points in a dissertation for the degree of dr. phil., "Regulation as Productive Tool Use - a Participatory Observation in the Control Room of a District Heating System." An earlier version of the paper was presented by the author as part of the defense of the dissertation at Roskilde University Center June 14 2002. As suggested by the title, the dissertation was an empirical study of regulation in a control room. The object of (...) the authors participatory observation was how the operators in the control room followed rules when they regulated a highly automated plant. When I was shown the plant I was told that the technology ran smoothly and without error. Its control structures are based on formal logic and mechanical principles, all the same human beings are required in the control room to take care of anomalies. Among other things, the observations provide an opportunity to discuss the limitations of psychologies that study human beings on the basis of formal principles. The present paper focuses on two characteristic aspects of this discussion in the dissertation. First, it takes its point of departure in some practical problems of the control structures of the control room. It will demonstrate that the practical problems are problems of principle, and that formal principles are not adequate to study the object of human sciences, namely, human beings. Second, it sketches out what is required of a conception of human beings. As human beings are trusted to handle anomalies, we must explain how they are able to act on an incomplete understanding of the situation. And since they are able to identify what is wrong, we must explain how they develop new knowledge. The paper presented at the defense summarized the main arguments of the dissertation and alluded to an expansion of the main point using a particular instance. Here the weight is shifted to the latter expansion. (shrink)
It is argued that the capacity to focus attention is crucial for intentional communication. Intentional communication is goal-intended; directed at changing mental states and as a consequence behaviour; about a referential object common to sender and recipient; and about objects that may be context-and referent-independent. Three different kinds of attention is discerned: scanning, attention attraction, and attention-focusing. The focus of attention can, depending on the abilities of the subject, be on objects or subjects that either are contextual or stable, and (...) it can be individual or shared. For language use, subject-subject focusing along with shared attention are necessary. This does not require Gricean metarepresentations, but basically only attention contact between the subjects and behavioral co-ordination. Language use can be compared with tool use to bring out the characteristics that distinguish informational from intentional communication. The capacities required for tool use are in several cases similar to those required for language use. A basic similarity is that both activities are used as means to an end. (shrink)
We examine tool use in relation to the capacity of animals for construction, contrasting tools and nests; place human tool use in a more general problem-solving context, revisiting the body schema in the process; and relate the evolution of language and of tool use.
Contrary to Vaesen, we argue that a small number of key traits are sufficient to explain modern human tool use. Here we outline and defend the cultural intelligence (CI) hypothesis. In doing so, we critically re-examine the role of social transmission in explaining human tool use.
Open peer commentary on the article “Investigating Extended Embodiment Using a Computational Model and Human Experimentation” by Yuki Sato, Hiroyuki Iizuka & Takashi Ikegami. Upshot: Sato and colleagues make use of an innovative method that combines robotics modeling and psychological experimentation to investigate how tool use affects our living and lived embodiment. I situate their approach in a general shift from robotics to human-computer interface studies in enactive cognitive science, and speculate about the necessary conditions for the bodily incorporation (...) of tools. (shrink)
Comparing cognitive functions between humans and nonhuman primates is helpful for understanding human tool use. We comment on the latest insights from comparative research on executive control functions. Based on our own work, we discuss how even a mental function in which non-human primates outperform humans might have played a key role in the development of tool use.
Bipedalism in the earliest hominid specimens is always accompanied by the reduction of projecting canine teeth. Body size is smaller than chimpanzees or humans, but molar teeth are markedly larger. Use of a pointed stick for defensive purposes on the one hand, and digging for USOs on the other, may be why bipedalism was selected for. Passing such learned behavior to the next generation may have played a role in selecting for language.
The work of Ludwig Wittgenstein is seldom used by philosophers of technology, let alone in a systematic way, and in general there has been little discussion about the role of language in relation to technology. Conversely, Wittgenstein scholars have paid little attention to technology in the work of Wittgenstein. In this paper we read the Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty in order to explore the relation between language use and technology use, and take some significant steps towards constructing a framework (...) for a Wittgensteinian philosophy of technology. This framework takes on board, and is in line with, insights from postphenomenological and hermeneutic approaches, but moves beyond those approaches by benefiting from Wittgenstein’s insights into the use of tools, technique, and performance, and by offering a transcendental interpretation of games, forms of life, and grammar. Focusing on Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language in the Investigations, we first discuss the relation between language use and technology use, understood as tool use, by drawing on his analogy between language and tools. This suggests a more general theory of technology use, understood as performance. Then we turn to his epistemology and argue that Wittgenstein’s understanding of language use can be embedded within a more general theory about technology use understood as tool use and technique, since language-in-use is always already a skilled and embodied technological practice. Finally, we propose a transcendental interpretation of games, forms of life, and grammar, which also gives us a transcendental way of looking at technique, technological practice, and performance. With this analysis and interpretation, further supported by comments on robotics and music, we contribute to using and integrating Wittgenstein in a more systematic way within philosophy of technology and engage with perennial questions from the philosophical tradition. (shrink)
The notion that human activity can be characterised in terms of dynamic systems is a well-established alternative to motor schema approaches. Key to a dynamic systems approach is the idea that a system seeks to achieve stable states in the face of perturbation. While such an approach can apply to physical activity, it can be challenging to accept that dynamic systems also describe cognitive activity. In this paper, we argue that creativity, which could be construed as a ‘cognitive’ activity par (...) excellence, arises from the dynamic systems involved in jewellery making. Knowing whether an action has been completed to a ‘good’ standard is a significant issue in considering acts in creative disciplines. When making a piece of jewellery, there a several criteria which can define ‘good’. These are not only the aesthetics of the finished piece but also the impact of earlier actions on subsequent ones. This suggests that the manner in which an action is coordinated is influenced by the criteria by which the product is judged. We see these criteria as indicating states for the system, e.g. in terms of a space of ‘good’ outcomes and a complementary space of ‘bad’ outcomes. The skill of the craftworker is to navigate this space of available states in such a way as to minimise risk, effort and other costs and maximise benefit and quality of the outcome. In terms of postphenomonology, this paper explores Ihde’s human-technology relations and relates these to the concepts developed here. (shrink)
Vaesen disregards a plausible alternative to his position, and so fails to offer a compelling argument for unique cognitive mechanisms. We suggest an ecological alternative, according to which divergent relationships between organism and environment, not exotic neuroanatomy, are responsible for unique cognitive capacities. This approach is pertinent to claims about primate cognition; and on this basis, we argue that Vaesen's inference from unique skills to unique mechanisms is unwarranted.