Note that first the solution to a problem must be in one's repertoire. Next that solution must come up as a trial and be evaluated affirmatively. Instinct and experience and priming are factors that weight trials so that one is selected over another.
The obvious differences between the universal use of tools by humans and their sparse use by NHPs suggests understanding tool use may reveal much about human nature and its origins.
Despite such suggestions to the contrary, tool use in NHPs has been known at least since Darwin. He noted, for example,:
Some of the earliest experimental work including that of Kohler and others documented considerable tool-using capability in the laboratory, supplementing the anecdotal observations from performing apes and early naturalistic observations (Garner, 189x).
Recent research --Goodall's observations on chimpanzees' use of sticks in ant fishing, detailed accounts of nut-cracking-- as well as experimental work demonstrate and more importantly refine both the degree and limitations of tool-use in NHPs. This research does not radically change our conception of the primate order--except perhaps for those who were ignorant of prior work.
The more sophisticated recent analysis, do however, raise subtle and important questions about how individuals and social groups come to utilize tools.
Bryne says: "single, isolated cases of object manipulation give little confidence that the perpetrators have a general understanding of cause and effect relations among objects; a wider repertoire of tool use, showing some flexibility, would point more clearly to intelligent usage....for a few species of primates....a picture of animals that can use a range of tools for a range of purposes, animals that can choose between methods. This suggests real intelligence 88-9."
Also see Nagell, K., Olguin, R. S., & Tomasello, M. (1993). Processes of social learning in the tool use of chimpanzees (Pan troglydytes) and human children (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 107, 174-186. (video data)
"I believe these studies suggest that chimpanzees and human children understand the tool-using behavior of conspecifics in different ways. For human children, the goal or intention of the demonstrator is a central part of what they perceive and, thus, her actual methods of tool use--the details of the way she is attempting to accomplish that goal become salient. For chimpanzees, the tool, the food, and their physical relation are salient; the intentional states of the demonstrator and her precise methods, on the other hand, are either not perceived or seem less relevant. p. 305"
Annett (19xx, 1991) has argued handedness is a genetic trait related to language.
MacNeilage (19xx) argues in his "postural origins" theory that handedness has its roots back in ancient prosimians who clung to branches with their right hand and reached for food with the left. One implication from this theory is that to really evaluate handedness, the animal has to be put in certain situation for a handedness tendency to reveal itself.
Overall species, there appear to be three general tendencies. The prosimians, like their ancestors, still display a left hand preference. whereas apes in varying degrees and situations and of course humans , prefer their right hand. In m
McGrew and Merchant, 1992, for example found no handedness in termite fishing but a right hand bias in reaching. Hopkins, Bard, Jones, and Bales, 1993 found an interesting relationship between throwing hand, position, and sex. Captive females were more likely to throw with the right hand in both four and two legged positions; while males used their right side much more when bipedal.
This raises some interesting speculation about the possible interrelationship of human lateralized function, language, and bipedality.