Looking for Intoolligence: A Unified Framework for the Cognitive Study of Human Tool Use and Technology

Francois Osiurak, Dietmar Heinke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
458 Downloads (Pure)


Humans have considerably modified their environment by making and building a number of tools, technologies, and constructions. This unique ability compared to other animals is the focus of researchers in different fields of psychology. However, there is confusion about the definitions proposed, generating difficulties in making connections between those different fields. This article presents the first unified framework (i.e., intoolligence) aiming to overcome these issues by focusing on the cognitive processes involved in the different forms taken by human tool use and technology, rather than on the overt behavior. To lay the foundation for intoolligence, we first address a series of epistemological misconceptions, which are the root cause for the current confusion. Particularly, we discuss the limitations of the widespread idea that tool use relies on specific cognitive skills, centered on the manipulative aspect of tool use. We develop, based on this analysis, details concerning our framework, which is based on the key principle that making and using are 2 independent cognitive steps. This distinction allows us to redefine tool use by breaking it down into 3 modes: assistive tool use, arbitrary tool use, and free tool use. This article opens a new chapter on the topic of human tool use and technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-185
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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