The ultimate tool, it could be said, is the brain and body. Therefore, a way to understand tool use is to study the brain's control of the body. A more manageable aim is to use the tools of cognitive science to explore the planning of physical actions. Here, I focus on two kinds of physical acts which directly or indirectly involve tool use: producing finger‐press sequences, and walking and reaching for objects. The main question is how people make choices between (...) finger‐press sequences, and how people make choices between walk‐and‐reach sequences. Are the choices made with reference to motor imagery, in which case the longer the sequences are the longer it takes to choose between them, or are shortcuts taken which rely on distinctive features of the alternatives? The reviewed experiments favor the latter alternative. The general view of action planning emerging from this work is one in which action features are highlighted and held in memory, not just to choose between potential actions but also to control the unfolding of long actions over time. Speculations are offered about tool use. (shrink)
Vaesen asks whether goal maintenance and planning ahead are critical for innovative tool use. We suggest that these aptitudes may have an evolutionary foundation in motor planning abilities that span all primate species. Anticipatory effects evidenced in the reaching behaviors of lemurs, tamarins, and rhesus monkeys similarly bear on the evolutionary origins of foresight as it pertains to tool use.
Recent computational models of motor planning have relied heavily on anticipating the consequences of motor acts. Such anticipation is vital for dealing with the redundancy problem of motor control (i.e., the problem of selecting a particular motor solution when more than one is possible to achieve a goal). Computational approaches to motor planning support the Theory of Event Coding (TEC).