Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Social Tool

  • Ivo Jacobs
  • Mathias Osvath
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3157-1


A tool directed toward another animal (social target) or the use of another animal as a tool (social means).


Tool use in nonhuman animals takes many forms. Social tool use consists of two different categories. Social-target tool use involves an animal using a tool toward or for the purpose of another animal. For instance, a male gila woodpecker often fed his offspring with honey, but this proved difficult when the honey was thinned down. He then removed pieces of bark and dipped them in the honey, which allowed him to transport it to his offspring. Thus, the bark was a tool that functioned to transport a liquid to a social target. The second category is social-means tool use: using another animal as a tool. For example, African elephant bulls have been observed to pick up and throw young bulls at fences, which broke and consequently enabled the bulls to pass. The young bulls were used as throwing tools. Some cases involve both social-target and social-means tool...


Triadic Interaction Gestural Communication Young Bull Social Tool Social Target 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Hopkins, W. D., Russell, J. L., & Schaeffer, J. A. (2012). The neural and cognitive correlates of aimed throwing in chimpanzees: A magnetic resonance image and behavioural study on a unique form of social tool use. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 367, 37–47. doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Hunt, G. R., Gray, R. D., & Taylor, A. H. (2013). Why is tool use rare in animals? In C. M. Sanz, J. Call, & C. Boesch (Eds.), Tool use in animals: Cognition and ecology (pp. 89–118). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511894800.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Johnson, C. M. (2010). Observing cognitive complexity in primates and cetaceans. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23, 587–624.Google Scholar
  4. Karplus, I., Fiedler, G. C., & Ramcharan, P. (1998). The intraspecific fighting behavior of the Hawaiian boxer crab, Lybia edmondsoni – Fighting with dangerous weapons? Symbiosis, 24, 287–302.Google Scholar
  5. Köhler, W. (1993). The mentality of orangs. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 6, 189–229.Google Scholar
  6. Osvath, M., & Karvonen, E. (2012). Spontaneous innovation for future deception in a male chimpanzee. PLoS ONE, 7, e36782. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036782.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Parker, S. T., & Gibson, K. R. (1977). Object manipulation, tool use and sensorimotor intelligence as feeding adaptations in Cebus monkeys and great apes. Journal of Human Evolution, 6, 623–641. doi:10.1016/s0047-2484(77)80135-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Shumaker, R. W., Walkup, K. R., & Beck, B. B. (2011). Animal tool behavior: The use and manufacture of tools by animals. Baltimore: JHU Press.Google Scholar
  9. Tokida, E., Tanaka, I., Takefushi, H., & Hagiwara, T. (1994). Tool-using in Japanese macaques: Use of stones to obtain fruit from a pipe. Animal Behaviour, 47, 1023–1030. doi:10.1006/anbe.1994.1140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Völter, C. J., Rossano, F., & Call, J. (2015). From exploitation to cooperation: Social tool use in orang-utan mother–offspring dyads. Animal Behaviour, 100, 126–134. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.11.025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lund UniversityLundSweden

Section editors and affiliations

  • Catherine Salmon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of RedlandsRedlandsUSA