Creative Research Medal 2009
Dorothy Fragaszy, professor of psychology, studies adaptive behavior in primates, specifically manipulation and problem-solving, including using tools. Her objective is to understand the genesis of adaptive behavior within the framework of evolution. In 2003, Fragaszy and her team documented capuchin monkeys’ routine use of heavy stones as hammers for cracking nuts, a discovery that excited primatologists around the world. Since then, she has discovered similarities in tool use—such as the prospective selection and transport of tools and nuts, and the repeated use of anvil sites and hammers—among wild capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees and ancestral humans. He research, which creatively combines field experiments and observational work from multiple disciplines, provides insights into the physical, cognitive, ecological, social, and developmental dimensions of tool use among primates. It provides a new reference point for models of human evolution as well.