Visual attention reveals affordances during Lower Palaeolithic stone tool exploration

Tools, which have a cognitive background rooted in our phylogenetic history, are essential for humans to interact with their environment. One of the characteristics of human beings is the coordination between the eyes and hands, which is associated with a skilled visuospatial system. Vision is the first input of an action that influences interaction with tools, and tools have affordances, known as behavioural possibilities, which indicate their possible uses and potentialities. The aim of the present study is to investigate body–tool interaction from a cognitive perspective, focusing on visual affordances during interaction with the early stone tools. We analyse visual attention, applying eye tracking technology, during a free visual exploration and during haptic manipulation of the Lower Palaeolithic stone tools. The central area of the tool is the most observed region, followed by the top and the base, while knapped areas trigger more attention than the cortex. There are differences between stone tool types, but visual exploration does not differ when aided by haptic exploration. The results suggest that visual behaviour is associated with the perception of affordances, possibly from the beginning of the brain–body–tool interaction, associated with the Lower Palaeolithic culture.

University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Maria Silva-Gago, Centro Nacional de Investigación Sobre La Evolución Humana

Annapaola Fedato, Centro Nacional de Investigación Sobre La Evolución Humana

Tim Hodgson, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Marcos Terradillos-Bernal, Universidad Isabel

Rodrigo Alonso-Alcalde, Museo de La Evolución Humana

Emilliano Bruner, Centro Nacional de Investigación Sobre La Evolución Humana