Coping with asymmetry: How infants and adults walk with one elongated leg

Whitney G. Cole, Simone V. Gill, Beatrix Vereijken, Karen E. Adolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The stability of a system affects how it will handle a perturbation: The system may compensate for the perturbation or not. This study examined how 14-month-old infants-notoriously unstable walkers-and adults cope with a perturbation to walking. We attached a platform to one of participants' shoes, forcing them to walk with one elongated leg. At first, the platform shoe caused both age groups to slow down and limp, and caused infants to misstep and fall. But after a few trials, infants altered their gait to compensate for the platform shoe whereas adults did not; infants recovered symmetrical gait whereas adults continued to limp. Apparently, adult walking was stable enough to cope with the perturbation, but infants risked falling if they did not compensate. Compensation depends on the interplay of multiple factors: The availability of a compensatory response, the cost of compensation, and the stability of the system being perturbed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-314
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Infant walking
  • Interlimb coordination
  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Motor development
  • Stability
  • Uneven leg lengths

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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