Locomotor Experience and Use of Social Information Are Posture Specific

Karen E. Adolph, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Shaziela Ishak, Lana B. Karasik, Sharon A. Lobo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors examined the effects of locomotor experience on infants' perceptual judgments in a potentially risky situation-descending steep and shallow slopes-while manipulating social incentives to determine where perceptual judgments are most malleable. Twelve-month-old experienced crawlers and novice walkers were tested on an adjustable sloping walkway as their mothers encouraged and discouraged descent. A psychophysical procedure was used to estimate infants' ability to crawl/walk down slopes, followed by test trials in which mothers encouraged and discouraged infants to crawl/walk down. Both locomotor experience and social incentives affected perceptual judgments. In the encourage condition, crawlers only attempted safe slopes within their abilities, but walkers repeatedly attempted impossibly risky slopes, replicating previous work. The discourage condition showed where judgments are most malleable. When mothers provided negative social incentives, crawlers occasionally avoided safe slopes, and walkers occasionally avoided the most extreme 50° increment, although they attempted to walk on more than half the trials. Findings indicate that both locomotor experience and social incentives play key roles in adaptive responding, but the benefits are specific to the posture that infants use for balance and locomotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1705-1714
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • affordances
  • crawling
  • infant locomotion
  • social cognition
  • walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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