'How toddlers acquire and transfer tool knowledge: Developmental changes and the role of executive functions'

Frankland 305
Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Tuesday 17th November 2015 (13:00-14:00)
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Part of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Development Group Seminar Series

Speaker: Sabrina Bechtel-Kühne, Universität Heidelberg

Humans are by far not the only proficient tool-using species. However, no other species uses tools as flexibly and ubiquitously as humans do. First signs of tool learning can be observed in infancy, but major progress seems to take place during early toddlerhood. So far, only little is known about basic cognitive processes that contribute to observed changes in behavior. In my talk I will present a tool-choice task that helps to investigate tool learning and flexible transfer in a standardized setting. Performance in this task was compared across four different age groups, ranging from 18 to 24 months. In addition, executive functions (i.e. working memory, shifting, response inhibition) were assessed to explore cognitive changes potentially underlying transfer performance. Findings point to the importance of the second year of life for developing tool understanding. Children become more flexible in applying their tool knowledge in new situations. This improvement shows systematic relations to executive functions. I will outline future studies following up on these results, including a study that compares tool-choice behavior with active tool use, as well as a study looking at tool innovation and executive functions in preschool children.