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The innovation problem: factors influencing innovative tool use in humaninfants and cockatoos

Behavioural innovations allow humans and animals to solve novel challenges and to create new opportunities. Tool innovations are particularly useful for amplifying access to environmental resources and have had an important role in human technical evolution. While children are proficient tool users from the age of two, they show a surprising inability to innovate new tools until they are eight years old. The reasons for this phenomenon are poorly understood, yet greatly important for our understanding of human cognitive architecture in the technical domain. Tool innovation is not restricted to humans but is also found in other taxa: recent research on children was motivated by studies on birds. Goffin's cockatoos are outstanding tool innovators that lack obvious inherited predispositions for using objects as instruments. Studying the capacity for tool innovation in a species distantly related to us will expand our knowledge on its mechanisms and origins. The proposed project will combine knowledge from developmental psychology and animal cognition to investigate the mechanisms and ontogenetic development of tool innovation in humans and Goffins. We will investigate motivational systems (exploration strategies, play) as well as cognitive means for innovative tool modification/manufacture and combinations of more than one tool. We will test specific hypothesis drawing on known similarities and differences.
innovative tool use in infants and cockatoos
Coordination in general
Auersperg Alice Isabel Marie
WWTF Cognitive Sciences Call 2018
Type of Research
Applied research
Vetmed Research Units
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition
Projekt partner
Contact: Sarah Ruth Beck
Universität Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT Birmingham, United Kingdom
Contact: Sabine Tebbich
Universität Wien, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
Funded by
Wiener Wissenschafts-, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds (WWTF), Wien, Austria
10 Publications

Osuna-Mascaró, AJ; Auersperg, AMI (2021): Current Understanding of the "Insight" Phenomenon Across Disciplines. Front Psychol. 2021; 12:791398
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Lambert, PJ; Stiegler, A; Rössler, T; Lambert, ML; Auersperg, AMI (2021): Goffin's cockatoos discriminate objects based on weight alone. Biol Lett. 2021; 17(9):20210250
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O'Hara, M; Mioduszewska, B; Mundry, R; Yohanna, ; Haryoko, T; Rachmatika, R; Prawiradilaga, DM; Huber, L; Auersperg, AMI (2021): Wild Goffin's cockatoos flexibly manufacture and use tool sets. Curr Biol. 2021; 31(20):4512-4520.e6
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Bobrowicz, K; O'Hara, M; Carminito, C; Auersperg, AMI; Osvath, M (2021): Goffin's Cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana) Can Solve a Novel Problem After Conflicting Past Experiences. Front Psychol. 2021; 12:694719
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Laumer, IB; Massen, JJM; Boehm, PM; Boehm, A; Geisler, A; Auersperg, AMI (2021): Individual Goffin´s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana) show flexible targeted helping in a tool transfer task. PLoS One. 2021; 16(6):e0253416
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Colbourne, JAD; Auersperg, AMI; Lambert, ML; Huber, L; Völter, CJ (2021): Extending the Reach of Tooling Theory: A Neurocognitive and Phylogenetic Perspective. Top Cogn Sci. 2021; 13(4):548-572
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Wakonig, B; Auersperg, AMI; O'Hara, M (2021): String-pulling in the Goffin's cockatoo (Cacatua goffiniana). Learn Behav. 2021 49 (1) 124-136.
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Laumer, IB; Jelbert, SA; Taylor, AH; Rössler, T; Auersperg, AMI (2021): Object manufacture based on a memorized template: Goffin's cockatoos attend to different model features. Anim Cogn. 2021 24 (3) 457-470.
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Monsó, S; Osuna-Mascaró, AJ (2021): Death is common, so is understanding it: the concept of death in other species. Synthese. 2021; 199(1-2):2251-2275
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Rössler, T; Mioduszewska, B; O"Hara, M; Huber, L; Prawiradilaga, DM; Auersperg, AMI (2020): Using an Innovation Arena to compare wild-caught and laboratory Goffin"s cockatoos. Sci Rep. 2020; 10(1):8681
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