Changes in children's perception-action tuning over short time scales: bicycling across traffic-filled intersections in a virtual environment

J Exp Child Psychol. 2011 Feb;108(2):322-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2010.07.005. Epub 2010 Aug 21.


This investigation examined short-term changes in child and adult cyclists' gap decisions and movement timing in response to general and specific road-crossing experiences. Children (10- and 12-year-olds) and adults rode a bicycle through a virtual environment with 12 intersections. Participants faced continuous cross traffic and waited for gaps they judged were adequate for crossing. In the control condition, participants encountered randomly ordered gaps ranging from 1.5 to 5.0s at all intersections. In the high-density condition, participants encountered high-density intersections sandwiched between sets of control intersections. These high-density intersections were designed to push participants toward taking tighter gaps. Participants in both conditions were more likely to accept 3.5-, 4.0-, 4.5-, and 5.0-s gaps at the last set of intersections than at the first set of intersections, whereas participants in the high-density condition were also more likely to accept very tight 3.0-s gaps at the last intersections than at the first intersections. Moreover, individuals in the high-density condition who waited less and took shorter gaps at the middle intersections were also more likely to take very tight 3.0-s gaps at the last intersections. The 10-year-olds in both conditions had more time to spare when they cleared the path of the oncoming car at the last intersections, whereas the 12-year-olds and adults showed no change in time to spare across intersections. The discussion focuses on linking short-term change in perceptual-motor functioning to longer term perceptual-motor development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Bicycling / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Environment*
  • Time Perception*
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult