Dr Nicola Cutting

Dr Nicola Cutting

School of Psychology
Research Fellow

Contact details

School of Psychology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Nicola Cutting is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working with Sarah Beck, Ian Apperly and Jackie Chappell on an ESRC funded project titled '(Re)Inventing the wheel: the development of tool innovation'.


  • BSc (hons) Psychology – University of Sheffield
  • PhD Psychology– University of Birmingham


Dr Nicola Cutting completed her undergraduate Psychology degree at the University of Sheffield. She completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2012 under the supervision of Professor Ian Apperly and Dr Sarah Beck. Nicola’s thesis was titled ‘Children’s Tool Making: From Innovation to Manufacture.’

Nicola’s research on children’s tool making has found that although children can readily make tools following full instruction, children display a surprising difficulty for tool innovation, the ability to make a novel tool to solve a problem. Current projects aim to discover why children find tool innovation so difficult, and what makes a person an innovator.


Research interests

  • Tool Innovation
  • Problem solving
  • Social learning
  • Cumulative Culture


Chappell, J., Cutting, N., Tecwyn, E. C., Apperly, I. A., Beck, S. R., & Thorpe, S. K. S. (2015). Minding the Gap: A Comparative Approach to Studying the Development of Innovation. In A. B. Kaufman & J. C. Kaufman, Animal Creativity and Innovation (pp. 287–314). London: Academic Press. 

Cutting, N., Apperly, I.A., Chappell, J. & Beck, S.R. (2014). Why can’t children piece their knowledge together? The puzzling difficulty of tool innovation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 125, 110-117. 

Beck, S. R., Cutting, N., Apperly, I. A., Demery, Z., Iliffe, L., Rishi, S., & Chappell, J. (2014). Is tool-making knowledge robust over time and across problems? Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1395. 

Chappell, J., Cutting, N., Apperly, I. A.,  & Beck, S. R. (2013). The development of tool manufacture in humans: what helps young children make innovative tools? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 368, 1630. 

Beck, S. R., Chappell, J., Apperly, I. A., & Cutting, N. (2012). Tool innovation may be a critical limiting step for the establishment of a rich tool-using culture: a perspective from child development. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35(4), 220-221. 

Cutting, N., Apperly, I. A., & Beck, S. R. (2011). Why do children lack the flexibility to innovate tools? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 109, 497–511. 

Beck, S. R., Apperly, I. A., Chappell, J., Guthrie, C., & Cutting, N. (2011). Making tools isn’t child’s play. Cognition, 119, 301–306.