Author ORCID Identifier

Mangalam -

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The embodied theory of tooling predicts that when using a grasped object as a tool, individuals accommodate their actions to manage the altered degrees of freedom in the body-plus-object system. We tested predictions from this theory by studying how 3 tufted capuchin monkeys (Sapajus spp.) and 6 humans (Homo sapiens) used a hoe to retrieve a token. The hoe’s handle was rigid, had 2 segments with 1 planar joint, or had 3 segments with 2 (orthogonal) planar joints. When jointed, rotating the handle could render it rigid. The monkeys used more actions to retrieve the token when the handle had 1 joint than when it had no joints or 2 joints. They did not use exploratory actions frequently nor in a directed manner in any condition. Although they sometimes rotated the handle of the hoe, they did not make it rigid. In a follow-up study, we explored whether humans would rotate the handle to use a 2-jointed hoe in a conventional manner, as predicted both by the embodied theory and theories of functional fixedness in humans. Two people rotated the handle to use the hoe conventionally, but 4 people did not; instead, they used the hoe as it was presented, as did the monkeys. These results confirm some predictions but also highlight shortcomings of the embodied theory with respect to specifying the consequences of adding multiple degrees of freedom. The study of species’ perceptual sensitivity to jointed object’s inertial properties could help to refine the embodied theory of tooling. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)


©American Psychological Association, [2021]. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at:


Journal Title

Journal of Comparative Psychology





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Biomechanics Commons