Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 503–520 | Cite as

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



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.


Human evolution Extended mind Archaeology Evolution Hominins Handaxes 



Thanks to Kim Sterelny for comments on early version of this paper. Particular thanks to Richard Menary for organising the original workshop where this paper was first presented. This research was undertaken with the assistance of funding from the New Zealand Marsden Fund.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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