A study conducted by the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology has revealed that toddlers can make and use simple tools without necessarily being instructed on how to do so. The study employed tests on 24 boys and 26 girls between the ages of two and three-and-a-half.
"The idea was to provide children with the raw material necessary to solve the task. We told the children the goal, but we never mentioned using the tool," said Claudio Tennie, a Birmingham research fellow. The tests were modelled around tasks commonly performed by apes, like chimpanzees.
As part of the study led by Eva Reindl, a professor at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology, each child was made to play alone and try to determine how to use an object as a tool to meet a goal. "While it is true that more sophisticated forms of human tool use indeed require social learning, we have identified a range of basic tool behaviours which seem not to," Reindl told AFP.
"Behaviour emerges through an interplay of several factors which all affect each other -- environment, genetic dispositions, social and individual learning," said Reindl. It has been traditionally believed that humans need to pass on their skills through learning and imitation, however the new study defies the conventional wisdom.
In 11 out of 12 tasks, the children were able to successfully find the right solution despite sometimes failing to execute the plan. Some of the tasks, included using a wet stick to gather polystyrene beads and placing them in a box and finding an adhesive label from a box by trying to make holes in the cover with a stick.
According to another earlier study, Manchester researchers concluded that children, "from a very young age, have some sense of justice, in the sense that they'll treat others as they expect themselves to be treated." The study found that young children have an innate sense of justice and are very concerned about setting things right rather than punishing wrongdoers.