How Do You Learn to Walk? Thousands of Steps and Dozens of Falls per Day

Karen E. Adolph, Whitney G. Cole, Meghana Komati, Jessie S. Garciaguirre, Daryaneh Badaly, Jesse M. Lingeman, Gladys L Y Chan, Rachel B. Sotsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A century of research on the development of walking has examined periodic gait over a straight, uniform path. The current study provides the first corpus of natural infant locomotion derived from spontaneous activity during free play. Locomotor experience was immense: Twelve- to 19-month-olds averaged 2,368 steps and 17 falls per hour. Novice walkers traveled farther faster than expert crawlers, but had comparable fall rates, which suggests that increased efficiency without increased cost motivates expert crawlers to transition to walking. After walking onset, natural locomotion improved dramatically: Infants took more steps, traveled farther distances, and fell less. Walking was distributed in short bouts with variable paths-frequently too short or irregular to qualify as periodic gait. Nonetheless, measures of periodic gait and of natural locomotion were correlated, which indicates that better walkers spontaneously walk more and fall less. Immense amounts of time-distributed, variable practice constitute the natural practice regimen for learning to walk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1387-1394
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Volume23
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Keywords

  • infant development
  • learning
  • motor processes
  • perceptual motor coordination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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