Functional understanding facilitates learning about tools in human children

Mikolaj Hernik, Gergely Csibra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

33 Citations (Scopus)


Human children benefit from a possibly unique set of adaptations facilitating the acquisition of knowledge about material culture. They represent artifacts (human-made objects) as tools with specific functions and seek for functional information about novel objects. Even young infants pay attention to functionally relevant features of objects, and learn tool use and infer tool functions from others' goal-directed actions and demonstrations. Children tend to imitate causally irrelevant elements of tool use demonstrations, which helps them to acquire means actions even before they fully understand their causal role in bringing about the desired goal. Although non-human animals use and make tools, and recognize causally relevant features of objects in a given task, they - unlike human children - do not appear to form enduring functional representations of tools as being for achieving particular goals when they are not in use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-38
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Neurobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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