Specificity of learning:Why Infants Fall over a Veritable Cliff

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Nine-month-old infants were tested at the precipice of safe and risky gaps in the surface of support. Their reaching and avoidance responses were compared in two postures, an experienced sitting posture and a less familiar crawling posture. The babies avoided reaching over risky gaps in the sitting posture but fell into risky gaps while attempting to reach in the crawling posture. This dissociation between developmental changes in posture suggests that (a) each postural milestone represents a different, modularly organized control system and (b) infants' adaptive avoidance responses are based on information about their postural stability relative to the gap size. Moreover, the results belie previous accounts suggesting that avoidance of a disparity in depth of the ground surface depends on general knowledge such as fear of heights, associations between depth information and falling, or knowledge that the body cannot be supported in empty space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-295
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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