Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Developmental niche construction

Flynn, E.G.; Laland, K.N.; Kendal, R.L.; Kendal, J.R.

Developmental niche construction Thumbnail


E.G. Flynn

K.N. Laland


Niche construction is the modification of components in an environment through an organism's activities. Humans modify their environments mainly through ontogenetic and cultural processes, and it is this reliance on learning, plasticity and culture that lends human niche construction a special potency. In this paper we aim to facilitate discussion between researchers interested in niche construction and those interested in human development by highlighting some of the related processes. We discuss the transmission of culturally relevant information, how the human mind is a symbol-generating and artefact-devising system, and how these processes are bi-directional, with infants and children both being directed, and directing, their own development. We reflect on these in the light of four approaches: natural pedagogy, activity theory, distributed cognition and situated learning. Throughout, we highlight pertinent examples in non-humans that parallel or further explicate the processes discussed. Finally we offer three future directions; two involving the use of new techniques in the realms of neuroscience and modelling, and the third suggesting exploration of changes in the affects of niche construction across the lifespan.


Flynn, E., Laland, K., Kendal, R., & Kendal, J. (2013). Developmental niche construction. Developmental Science, 16(2), 296-313.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2013
Deposit Date Aug 8, 2012
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2014
Journal Developmental Science
Print ISSN 1363-755X
Electronic ISSN 1467-7687
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 2
Pages 296-313
Keywords Niche construction, Pedagogy, Activity theory, Distributed cognition, Situated learning, Cultural evolution.


Accepted Journal Article (872 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Flynn, E. G., Laland, K. N., Kendal, R. L. and Kendal, J. R. (2013), Target Article with Commentaries: Developmental niche construction. Developmental Science, 16 (2): 296–313, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations