Culture Magazine

Tool Innovation and Childhood

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

In our @TrendsCognSci paper, @bruce_rawlings and I address a question that has long puzzled scientists: How is it that humans have such sophisticated technology, and yet it takes most of childhood to learn to solve basic tool innovation tasks? (1/10)

— Cristine Legare (@CristineLegare) November 20, 2020
From the article,Toddlers, Tools, and Tech: The Cognitive Ontogenesis of

Highlights: Innovation, trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19 November 2020, by Bruce Rawlings and Christine H. Hegare, Human culture is unparalleled in technological complexity, yet most children fail simple tool innovation challenges.

We explain how multiple cognitive mechanisms, including causal reasoning, problem solving, creativity, executive functions, and social learning work in concert to scaffold the development of tool innovation over childhood.

We describe the role these mechanisms play in three core steps of tool innovation; recognizing the problem, generating solutions, and the social transmission of innovations.

Using commonly used measures of children’s tool innovation as examples, we detail the role each of these mechanisms plays in the development of tool innovation.

We show how understanding the cognitive ontogeny of innovation will help us understand cognitive and cultural evolution.

Introduction: The development of tool innovation presents a paradox. How do humans have such diverse and complex technology, ranging from smartphones to aircraft, and yet young children find even simple tool innovation challenges, such as fashioning a hook to retrieve a basket from a tube, remarkably difficult? We propose that the solution to this paradox is the cognitive ontogenesis of tool innovation. Using a common measure of children’s tool innovation, we describe how multiple cognitive mechanisms work in concert at each step of its process: recognizing the problem, generating appropriate solutions, and the social transmission of innovations. We discuss what the ontogeny of this skill tells us about cognitive and cultural evolution and provide recommendations for future research.

We also provide examples of extraordinarily innovative technologies developed by young people in response to tackling COVID-19.

— Cristine Legare (@CristineLegare) November 20, 2020

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