Behavioral flexibility in learning to sit

Jaya Rachwani, Kasey C. Soska, Karen E. Adolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What do infants learn when they learn to sit upright? We tested behavioral flexibility in learning to sit—the ability to adapt posture to changes in the environment—in 6- to 9-month-old infants sitting on forward and backward slopes. Infants began with slant at 0°; then slant increased in 2° increments until infants lost balance. Infants kept balance on impressively steep slopes, especially in the forward direction, despite the unexpected movements of the apparatus. Between slant adjustments while the slope was stationary, infants adapted posture to the direction and degree of slant by leaning backward on forward slopes and forward on backward slopes. Postural adaptations were nearly optimal for backward slopes. Sitting experience predicted greater postural adaptations and increased ability to keep balance on steeper changes of slant, but only for forward slopes. We suggest that behavioral flexibility is integral to learning to sit and increases with sitting experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-948
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • flexibility
  • infant
  • postural control
  • sitting
  • sloping surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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