Infant Tool Use and Executive Function
How do toddlers’ executive function skills relate to abilities to use familiar tools in unfamiliar ways? What method might encourage infants to employ executive function skills to override their prepotent, or automatic, responses to familiar tools? Fourteen-to 18-month-olds attempted to activate a lightbox using a familiar (spoon) and unfamiliar (novel) tool (see Barrett, Davis, & Needham, 2007). Toddlers’ initial grasps were restricted on half of the trials. Our behavioral data revealed that type of tool and methods of presentation were reliable predictors of infants’ abilities to solve the lightbox task. One item on an executive function questionnaire reliably predicted toddlers’ success, suggesting a positive correlation between 14- to 18-month-olds’ emerging executive function and tool use.