Change in action: how infants learn to walk down slopes

Dev Sci. 2009 Nov;12(6):888-902. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00828.x.


A critical aspect of perception-action coupling is the ability to modify ongoing actions in accordance with variations in the environment. Infants' ability to modify their gait patterns to walk down shallow and steep slopes was examined at three nested time scales. Across sessions, a microgenetic training design showed rapid improvements after the first session in infants receiving concentrated practice walking down slopes and in infants in a control group who were tested only at the beginning and end of the study. Within sessions, analyses across easy and challenging slope angles showed that infants used a 'braking strategy' to curb increases in walking speed across increasingly steeper slopes. Within trials, comparisons of infants' gait modifications before and after stepping over the brink of the slopes showed that the braking strategy was planned prospectively. Findings illustrate how observing change in action provides important insights into the process of skill acquisition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Gravity Sensing / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Walking / physiology*