Young children invent tools, just like great apes

Children spontaneously invent tools, they don't just learn to use them

Children spontaneously invent tools, they don't just learn to use them

(Eva Reindl)
Listen8:50
One of many traits humans share with other Great Apes is the ability to use tools. Scientists have long believed that tool use by all young Great Apes, including humans, is learned socially, usually from watching others. But scientists, including Eva Reindl, a PhD student at the University of Birmingham in England, wanted to find out whether young children could spontaneously invent tool use.

In an experiment based on 12 known types of tool use by chimps and orangutans, 50 children, between the ages of 2 and 3 1/2, were challenged to solve simple problems - such as retrieving a sticker from a box using a stick - without any prior instruction.

Most of the children successfully completed their tasks in a matter of minutes, by using a previously unknown tool. The study concludes that spontaneous tool use in humans begins much earlier than previously thought. 

Related Links

Paper in The Proceedings of The Royal Society: B
- University of Birmingham release
- Discovery Newsstory
The Guardianstory