A new twist on old ideas: How sitting reorients crawlers

Kasey C. Soska, Scott R. Robinson, Karen E. Adolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditionally, crawling and sitting are considered distinct motor behaviors with different postures and functions. Ten- to 12-month-old infants were observed in the laboratory or in their homes while being coaxed to crawl continuously over long, straight walkways (Study 1; N = 20) and during spontaneous crawling during free play (Study 2; N = 20). In every context, infants stopped crawling to sit 3-6 times per minute. Transitions from crawling to sitting frequently turned infants' bodies away from the direction of heading; subsequent transitions back to crawling were offset by as much as 180° from the original direction of heading. Apparently, body reorientations result from the biomechanics of transitioning between crawling and sitting. Findings indicate that sustained, linear crawling is likely an epiphenomenon of how gait is studied in standard paradigms. Postural transitions between crawling and sitting are ubiquitous and can represent a functional unit of action. These transitions and the accompanying body reorientations likely have cascading effects for infants' exploration, visual perception, and spatial cognition. During crawling exploration, infants stopped and reverted to a sitting posture 3-6 times per minute-whether at home or in the lab. Sitting with the legs out (90% of sits) caused infants to face away from their crawling path; returning back to crawling often set infants off in a new direction. Natural crawling occurs in brief episodes accompanied by sharply-angled turns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-218
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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