, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 503-520

The co-evolution of tools and minds: cognition and material culture in the hominin lineage

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Abstract

The structuring of our environment to provide cues and reminders for ourselves is common: We leave notes on the fridge, we have a particular place for our keys where we deposit them, making them easy to find. We alter our world to streamline our cognitive tasks. But how did hominins gain this capacity? What pushed our ancestors to structure their physical environment in ways that buffered thinking and began the process of using the world cognitively? I argue that the capacity to engage in these behaviours is a by-product of increased tool investment and tool curation, which in turn was necessary because of increasingly heterogeneous environments. The minute tools are carried and cared for, they begin to undergo selection for added functions, becoming available as cognitive primers and as signals. I explore the trajectory of this co-evolutionary feedback loop of hominins and their tools, and demonstrate the role tools have in shaping our thinking.