ChapterLiterature Review

How Perception and Action Fosters Exploration and Selection in Infant Skill Acquisition

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Abstract

In this chapter, we discuss how perception and action are intimately linked to the processes of exploration and selection. Exploration, which we define as trying several variations of the behavior, and selection, which involves attempting to reproduce the behaviors that work, are essential for learning about the environment, discovering the properties of objects, and for acquiring skills in relation to goals. Exploration and selection happen in the moment and over time as behaviors are repeated, hence leading to their fine-tuning to the goal. We illustrate this time-dependent developmental process using several examples from infants reaching for objects, to discovering object properties, to learning about the functionality of tool use, and even to word learning. As we present those examples, we introduce a more detailed perception-action loop to illustrate those moment-to-moment behaviors and show how they contribute to the acquisition of perceptual, motor, and cognitive skills in infancy.

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... The theoretical importance of movement variability was previously discussed by Thelen and Smith: in 1994, they proposed that infants will increase motor variability to explore new learning opportunities (Thelen and Smith, 1994). In addition, Corbetta et al. (2018) proposed that infants learning to reach for objects will increase movement variability, arising from exploration of different types of behavior (Corbetta et al., 2018). Infants will then select and fine-tune over time the movement pattern that best accomplishes the goal, with a corresponding decrease in movement variability. ...
... The theoretical importance of movement variability was previously discussed by Thelen and Smith: in 1994, they proposed that infants will increase motor variability to explore new learning opportunities (Thelen and Smith, 1994). In addition, Corbetta et al. (2018) proposed that infants learning to reach for objects will increase movement variability, arising from exploration of different types of behavior (Corbetta et al., 2018). Infants will then select and fine-tune over time the movement pattern that best accomplishes the goal, with a corresponding decrease in movement variability. ...
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Background Infants at risk for developmental disabilities often show signs of motor delay. Reaching is a skill that can help us identify atypical motor trajectories in early infancy. Researchers have studied performance after onset of reaching, but none have followed infants at risk from pre-reaching to skilled reaching. Aims We assessed differences in reaching outcomes and hand use as reaching skill emerged in infants at risk for developmental disabilities and with typical development. Methods and Procedures We followed infants at risk for developmental disabilities ( n = 11) and infants with typical development ( n = 21) longitudinally as they developed reaching skill. Infants reached for a toy at midline while sitting in the caregiver’s lap. Video data were coded for reach outcome (miss, touch, partial grasp, and whole-hand grasp) and hand use (right, left, and bilateral). Outcomes and Results Infants at risk had a larger proportion of missed reaches across visits compared to infants with typical development. Infants at risk also showed less variability in hand use when grasping over the study period. Conclusion and Implications Our results provide information to support early differences in reaching performance to inform identification of typical and atypical developmental trajectories. Future studies should assess how the missed reaches are different and consider other quantitative measures of movement variability in infants at risk.
... In the present investigation, we ask how infants' visual preference for items with a more easily graspable region is related to changes in their motor abilities. We focused on potentially graspable objects because Corbetta et al. (2018) describe a perception-action loop by which infants reach for objects they see, inducing changes in their reaching, manual exploration, and visual inspection of those objects. Additionally, Libertus et al. (2013) found that infants with more reaching experience shift from an initial preference for larger, more salient objects toward studying the features of smaller, more graspable objects. ...
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We examined the relation between 4- to 12-month-old infants' ( N = 107) motor development and visual preference for handled or non-handled objects, using Lookit ( lookit.mit.edu ) as an online tool for data collection. Infants viewed eight pairs of objects, and their looking was recorded using their own webcam. Each pair contained one item with an easily graspable “handle-like” region and one without. Infants' duration of looking at each item was coded from the recordings, allowing us to evaluate their preference for the handled item. In addition, parents reported on their infants' motor behavior in the previous week. Overall, infants looked longer to handled items than non-handled items. Additionally, by examining the duration of infants' individual looks, we show that differences in infants' interest in the handled items varied both by infants' motor level and across the course of the 8-s trials. These findings confirm infant visual preferences can be successfully measured using Lookit and that motor development is related to infants' visual preferences for items with a graspable, handle-like region. The relative roles of age and motor development are discussed.
... Various hypotheses, not all of which we will explore here, have been put forward in order to explain the development of reaching movements during the first months of life (see chapter XI of Fagard, 2001). One of these hypotheses (see e.g., Corbetta, DiMercurio, Wiener, Connell, & Clark, 2018) argues that three mechanisms underpin the development of reaching movements: (1) intermodal perception, which offers babies unified perceptual feedback from their arm movements, (2) sensitivity to sensorimotor contingencies, which allows them to detect the link between their arm movements and the haptic sensations resulting from contact between the hand and the object, and (3) motivation to interact with the world around them, which drives babies to repeat the movements that had previously allowed them to touch the object. According to this hypothesis, the first instance of reaching out and touching an object-which may take place by chance-is caused by an increase in babies' spontaneous motor activity in the presence of an object that occurs toward the age of 3 months (Bhat & Galloway, 2006). ...
Article
This literature review examines how babies’ body know-how develops during the first year of life. It surveys studies describing this development through the exploration of the body and of the physical environment. This early development may help babies acquire a sense of agency and a sense of body ownership. The development of body know-how, as a precursor to more in-depth knowledge of the body and of the self, may play an essential role in children’s socio-cognitive and psychomotor development.
... 55) focused on the "perception-action system" as a model system for understanding development (Plumert, 2018). The volume illustrates the landscape of Developmental Systems research with chapters, for example, on how perception-action fosters infants' exploring and selecting reaching skills (Corbetta, DiMercurio, Wiener, Connell, & Clark, 2018), spatial orientation for object fitting (Lockman, Fears, & Jung, 2018), and dynamic affordances for road-crossing (Plumert & Kearney, 2018). ...
Article
In Part I of this series, we looked back at the 20 th century and re-examined the history of Motor Development research described in Clark & Whitall’s 1989 paper “What is Motor Development? The Lessons of History”. We now move to the 21 st century, where the trajectories of developmental research have evolved in focus, branched in scope, and diverged into three new areas. These have progressed to be independent research areas, co-existing in time. We posit that the research focus on Dynamical Systems at the end of the 20 th century has evolved into a Developmental Systems approach in the 21 st century. Additionally, the focus on brain imaging and the neural basis of movement have resulted in a new approach, which we entitled Developmental Motor Neuroscience. Finally, as the world-wide obesity epidemic identified in the 1990s threatened to become a public health crisis, researchers in the field responded by examining the role of motor development in physical activity and health-related outcomes; we refer to this research area as the Developmental Health approach. The glue that holds these research areas together is their focus on movement behavior as it changes across the lifespan.
... L'une de ces hypothèses (voir par ex. Corbetta, DiMercurio, Wiener, Connell, & Clark, 2018) défend que le développement du geste d'atteinte est sous-tendu par trois mécanismes : (1) la capacité de perception intermodale du bébé, qui lui donnerait un retour perceptif unifié de son mouvement de bras, (2) la sensibilité du bébé aux contingences sensorimotrices, qui lui permettrait de détecter le lien entre son mouvement du bras et la sensation haptique résultant du contact entre sa main et l'objet, et (3) la motivation du bébé à interagir avec le monde qui l'entoure, qui le « pousserait » à répéter les mouvements lui ayant préalablement permis de toucher l'objet. Suivant cette hypothèse, la première occurrence d'atteinte de l'objet, qui pourrait avoir lieu par hasard, serait causée par l'augmentation vers l'âge de 3 mois de l'activité motrice spontanée du bébé en présence d'un objet (Bhat & Galloway, 2006). ...
Article
Cette revue de la littérature propose d’examiner de quelle manière le savoir-faire corporel du bébé s’affine au cours de la première année de vie, en décrivant ce développement à travers l’exploration du corps et l’exploration de l’environnement physique. Ce développement précoce pourrait participer à l’acquisition par le bébé d’un sens de l’agentivité (sense of agency) et d’un sens du corps propre (body ownership). Le développement du savoir-faire corporel, par son statut de précurseur d’une connaissance plus approfondie du corps et de soi, jouerait un rôle essentiel dans le développement sociocognitif et psychomoteur de l’enfant.
... De manière générale, le rôle de l'exploration et du jeu dans le développement du bébé semble désormais communément admis par les chercheurs, et cela aussi bien pour le développement moteur (voir par ex. Adolph et al., 2000;Corbetta et al., 2018) que cognitif ou socio-émotionnel du bébé (par ex. Power, 2000;Singer et al., 2006). ...
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Au regard de la place croissante occupée par l'intelligence artificielle dans nos sociétés, la nécessité d'affiner notre compréhension de la notion d'apprentissage semble plus importante que jamais. S'intégrant dans une telle optique, cette thèse de doctorat cherche à mettre en lumière les mécanismes d'apprentissage permettant au bébé d'acquérir au cours de la première année de vie une utilisation appropriée et différenciée de son corps lui permettant d'interagir de manière efficace avec son environnement physique et social, ce que nous désignons ici par le terme de "savoir-fairecorporel". Le postulat au cœur de ce travail de recherche est le suivant : l'acquisition progressive du savoir-faire corporel au cours de la vie fœtale et des premiers mois de vie post-partum est sous-tendue par deux mécanismes d'apprentissage, l'exploitation de la sensibilité aux contingencessensorimotrices et la motivation intrinsèque. Ce travail de thèse explore la première partie de ce postulat, c'est-à-dire le rôle jouée par la sensibilité aux contingences sensorimotrices dans le développement du savoir-faire corporel. Afin d'investiguer cette hypothèse, ce travail de thèsese concentre dans un premier temps sur l'analyse critique des données expérimentales déjà existantes sur le sujet, à la fois en psychologie du développement et en robotique développementale. Dans un second temps, cette recherche vise à approfondir notre compréhension de l'acquisition du savoir-faire corporel à travers l'expérimentation chez le bébé âgé de moins d'un an.
... In fact, searching for a toy that has just gone out of sight is not an easy task. It requires an extended developmental trajectory of experiences and cognitive and motor maturity and a coordination of both (Corbetta et al., 2018). Infants fail to manually search for an out-of-sight object until around 8 months old (Piaget, 1954; see Vishton, 2018 for a review). ...
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Infants register and react to informational uncertainty in the environment. They also form expectations about the probability of future events as well as update the expectation according to changes in the environment. A novel line of research has started to investigate infants’ and toddlers’ behavior under uncertainty. By combining these research areas, the present research investigated 12- and 24-month-old infants’ searching behaviors under varying degree of informational uncertainty. An object was hidden in one of three possible locations and probabilistic information about the hiding location was manipulated across trials. Infants’ time delay in search initiation for a hidden object linearly increased across the level of informational uncertainty. Infants’ successful searching also varied according to probabilistic information. The findings suggest that infants modulate their behaviors based on probabilistic information. We discuss the possibility that infants’ behavioral reaction to the environmental uncertainty constitutes the basis for the development of subjective uncertainty.
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Background : Spontaneous upper extremity movements in infancy provide insight on neuromotor development. Spatiotemporal kinematics have been used to evaluate typical development of reaching, a foundational motor skill in infancy. This study evaluates the relationship between spontaneous upper extremity movements, not elicited by a toy, and motor skill attainment. Methods : N = 12 healthy infants (2–8 months) participated in this longitudinal study (one to four sessions). Motor skills were assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd Edition: gross motor subtest (GM) and fine motor subtest. Spontaneous upper extremity movements were collected using 3D motion capture technology. Infants were placed in supine for three to twelve 30-s trials, and their movements were recorded. Repeated measure correlation coefficients (Rmcorr) were used to evaluate relationships between variables. Results : There were significant, moderate, positive relationships between the straight distance from start to end of a movement and (a) fine motor score (Rmcorr = .55, p = .03), (b) GM score (Rmcorr = .63, p = .01), and (c) age (Rmcorr = .56, p = .02). There was a significant, moderate, negative relationship between straightness ratio and GM score (Rmcorr = −.52, p = .047). Discussion : Fine and GM skills are related to the straight distance from start to end of a movement and the straightness ratio of underlying spontaneous upper extremity movements.
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Perception, action, and intrinsic motivation play an essential role in early development, promoting the creation and refinement of new and more complex forms of behaviors as infants try a range of sensorimotor patterns in their environment. I use the example of infants’ reaching to illustrate how goal-directed action emerges from the intersection of seemingly distinct visual and proprioceptive-tactile-motor spaces that form in the early months following birth. The intersection of these two spaces begins with a casual contingent event involving vision and action: when the hand happens to contact a target. This event, which marks the onset of reaching, provides new behavioral value, reinforces the motor action, and intrinsically motivates infants to attempt to reproduce the behavior. Subsequent repeated cycles of perception and action lead to the exploration of a range of motor responses and a progressive alignment of the visual space with the proprioceptive-tactile-motor space, ultimately fostering the selection and refinement of increasingly successful and refined reaching patterns. Extensive hands-on experience in the environment and learning about the immediate outcomes of actions play a critical role in shaping behavioral development.
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We outline a theory of infant skill acquisition characterized by an assembly phase, during which a task-specific, low-dimensional action pattern emerges from spontaneous movement in the context of task constraints, and a tuning phase, during which adjustment of the system parameters yields a more energetically efficient and more stable movement. 8 infants were observed longitudinally when bouncing while supported by a harness attached to a spring, We found an initial assembly phase in which kicking was irregular and variable in period, and a tuning phase with more periodic kicking, followed by the sudden appearance of long bouts of sustained bouncing. This ''peak'' behavior was characterized by oscillation at the resonant frequency of the mass-spring system, an increase in amplitude, and a decrease in period variability. The data are consistent with a forced mass-spring operating at resonance.
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Observational learning is probably one of the most powerful factors determining progress during child development. When learning a new skill, infants rely on their own exploration; but they also frequently benefit from an adult’s verbal support or from demonstration by an adult modeling the action. At what age and under what conditions does adult demonstration really help the infant to learn a novel behavior? In this review, we summarize recently published work we have conducted on the acquisition of tool use during the second year of life. In particular, we consider under what conditions and to what extent seeing a demonstration from an adult advances an infant’s understanding of how to use a tool to obtain an out-of-reach object. Our results show that classic demonstration starts being helpful at 18 months of age. When adults explicitly show their intention prior to demonstration, even 16-month-old infants learn from the demonstration. On the other hand, providing an explicit demonstration (“look at how I do it”) is not very useful before infants are ready to succeed by themselves anyway. In contrast, repeated observations of the required action in a social context, without explicit reference to this action, considerably advances the age of success and the usefulness of providing a demonstration. We also show that the effect of demonstration can be enhanced if the demonstration makes the baby laugh. Taken together, the results from this series of studies on observational learning of tool use in infants suggest, first, that when observing a demonstration, infants do not know what to pay attention to: demonstration must be accompanied by rich social cues to be effective; second, infants’ attention is inhibited rather than enhanced by an explicit demand of “look at what I do”; and finally a humorous situation considerably helps infants understand the demonstration.
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The onset of locomotion heralds one of the major life transitions in early development and involves a pervasive set of changes in perception, spatial cognition, and social and emotional development. Through a synthesis of published and hitherto unpublished findings, gathered from a number of converging research designs and methods, this article provides a comprehensive review and reanalysis of the consequences of self-produced locomotor experience. Specifically, we focus on the role of locomotor experience in changes in social and emotional development, referential gestural communication, wariness of heights, the perception of self-motion, distance perception, spatial search, and spatial coding strategies. Our analysis reveals new insights into the specific processes by which locomotor experience brings about psychological changes. We elaborate these processes and provide new predictions about previously unsuspected links between locomotor experience and psychological function. The research we describe is relevant to our broad understanding of the developmental process, particularly as it pertains to developmental transitions. Although acknowledging the role of genetically mediated developmental changes, our viewpoint is a transactional one in which a single acquisition, in this case the onset of locomotion, sets in motion a family of experiences and processes that in turn mobilize both broad-based and context-specific psychological reorganizations. We conclude that, in infancy, the onset of locomotor experience brings about widespread consequences, and after infancy, can be responsible for an enduring role in development by maintaining and updating existing skills.
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For decades, the emergence and progression of infant reaching was assumed to be largely under the control of vision. More recently, however, the guiding role of vision in the emergence of reaching has been downplayed. Studies found that young infants can reach in the dark without seeing their hand and that corrections in infants' initial hand trajectories are not the result of visual guidance of the hand, but rather the product of poor movement speed calibration to the goal. As a result, it has been proposed that learning to reach is an embodied process requiring infants to explore proprioceptively different movement solutions, before they can accurately map their actions onto the intended goal. Such an account, however, could still assume a preponderant (or prospective) role of vision, where the movement is being monitored with the scope of approximating a future goal-location defined visually. At reach onset, it is unknown if infants map their action onto their vision, vision onto their action, or both. To examine how infants learn to map the feel of their hand with the sight of the object, we tracked the object-directed looking behavior (via eye-tracking) of three infants followed weekly over an 11-week period throughout the transition to reaching. We also examined where they contacted the object. We find that with some objects, infants do not learn to align their reach to where they look, but rather learn to align their look to where they reach. We propose that the emergence of reaching is the product of a deeply embodied process, in which infants first learn how to direct their movement in space using proprioceptive and haptic feedback from self-produced movement contingencies with the environment. As they do so, they learn to map visual attention onto these bodily centered experiences, not the reverse. We suggest that this early visuo-motor mapping is critical for the formation of visually-elicited, prospective movement control.
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The current eye-tracking study explored the relative impact of object size and depth cues on 8-month-old infants' visual attention processes. A series of slides containing 3 objects of either different or same size were displayed on backgrounds with varying depth cues. The distribution of infants' first looks (a measure of initial attention switch) and infants' looking durations (a measure of sustained attention) at the objects were analyzed. Results revealed that the large objects captured infants' attention first, that is, most of the times infants directed their visual attention first to the largest object in the scene regardless of depth cues. For sustained attention, infants preferred maintaining their attention to the largest object also, but this occurred only when depth cues were present. These findings suggest that infants' initial attention response is driven mainly by object size, while infants' sustained attention is more the product of combined figure and background processing, where object sizes are perceived as a function of depth cues.
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A head camera was used to examine the visual correlates of object name learning by toddlers as they played with novel objects and as the parent spontaneously named those objects. The toddlers' learning of the object names was tested after play, and the visual properties of the head camera images during naming events associated with learned and unlearned object names were analyzed. Naming events associated with learning had a clear visual signature, one in which the visual information itself was clean and visual competition among objects was minimized. Moreover, for learned object names, the visual advantage of the named target over competitors was sustained, both before and after the heard name. The findings are discussed in terms of the visual and cognitive processes that may depend on clean sensory input for learning and also on the sensory-motor, cognitive, and social processes that may create these optimal visual moments for learning.
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The present investigation explored the question of whether walking onset is related to infant language development. Study 1 used a longitudinal design (N = 44) to assess infant locomotor and language development every 2 weeks from 10 to 13.5 months of age. The acquisition of walking was associated with a significant increase in both receptive and productive language, independent of age. Study 2 used an age-held-constant study with 12.5-month-old infants (38 crawling infants; 37 walking infants) to further explore these findings. Results from Study 2 replicated the differences in infant language development between locomotor groups. Additionally, a naturalistic observation of parent-infant interactions (20 crawling dyads; 24 walking dyads) revealed that language development was predicted by multiple factors in the social environment, but only for walking infants. Possible explanations of the findings (e.g., social, cognitive, neurological) are discussed, and topics for future research are highlighted. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
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propose that infants know a good deal more about objects than Piaget gave them credit for knowing / for Piaget, many of the developments between 5 and 12 months of age concerned the elaboration of the concept of the object and the concept of space the thesis of this chapter is (a) that what emerges between 5 and 12 months is, instead, the ability to demonstrate and understanding of these concepts, the understanding already having been present, and (b) that these behavioral developments between 5 and 12 months are intimately tied to maturation of the frontal cortex first, evidence is presented that an understanding of the object concept and of the spatial relations among objects, such as contiguity, are present early in the first year / given that, the question of why infants make the striking mistakes Piaget so astutely observed is considered / finally, evidence is provided linking the behavioral advances during the first year, and the abilities that underlie them, to frontal cortex (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Twenty-four 7- to 13-month-old infants were videotaped when grasping or attempting to grasp objects of different sizes ranging in height from 7 to 17.5 cm. We investigated how early during the action sequence young infants use their two hands to grasp large objects, in order to determine the age at which they anticipate the need for a bimanual strategy from perception of object size. Second hand onset was also measured to examine whether the second hand could be recruited at any time during an action. The results show that most movements start unimanually and that the second hand is activated later. The younger infants were more successful when grasping large objects with two hands than with one hand, but they did not show more bimanual reaching with large as compared to small objects before 11 months of age. These findings suggest that young infants do not perceive the same action relevant information to drive an action as older infants and that infants shift from a correction to an anticipation strategy as they grow older. The results fit with the idea that, regarding features like size, relevant visuomanual experience may be important for full coordination of the constituent perceptual and motor skills. In addition, after a unimanual initiation, the younger infants tended to activate their second hand only after the first one had completed its course. In contrast, more intermanual flexibility was observed in the older infants. This reflects an increasing range of coordinated patterns during bimanual actions around the end of the first year of life.
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Despite a growing interest in the question of tool-use development in infants, no study so far has systematically investigated how learning to use a tool to retrieve an out-of-reach object progresses with age. This was the first aim of this study, in which 60 infants, aged 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22months, were presented with an attractive toy and a rake-like tool. There were five conditions of spatial relationships between the toy and the tool, going from the toy and tool being connected to there being a large spatial gap between them. A second aim of the study was to evaluate at what age infants who spontaneously fail the task can learn this complex skill by being given a demonstration from an adult. Results show that even some of the youngest infants could spontaneously retrieve the toy when it was presented inside and touching the top part of the tool. In contrast, in conditions with a spatial gap, the first spontaneous successes were observed at 18months, suggesting that a true understanding of the use of the tool has not been fully acquired before that age. Interestingly, it is also at 18months that infants began to benefit from the demonstration in the conditions with a spatial gap. The developmental steps for tool use observed here are discussed in terms of changes in infants' ability to attend to more than one item in the environment. The work provides insight into the progressive understanding of tool use during infancy and into how observational learning improves with age.
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Event Set × Event Set designs were used to study the rotating screen paradigm introduced by Baillargeon, Spelke, and Wasserman (1985). In Experiment 1, 36 5 1/2-month-old infants were habituated to a screen rotating 180° with no block, a screen rotating 120° up to a block, or a screen rotating 180° up to and seemingly through a block. All infants were then tested on the same 3 events and also a screen rotating 120° with no block. The results indicate that infants are using novelty and familiarity preference to determine their looking times. To confirm this, in Experiment 2, 52 5 1/2-month-old infants were familiarized on either 3 or 7 trials to a screen rotating 180° with no block or a screen rotating 120° with no block. All infants were then tested on the same test events as in Experiment 1. Infants with fewer familiarization trials were more likely to prefer the familiar rotation event. The results of these 2 experiments indicate that infants did not use the possibility or impossibility of events but instead used familiarity or novelty relations between the habituation events and the test events to determine their looking times, and suggest that the Baillargeon et al. study should not be interpreted as indicating object permanence or solidity knowledge in young infants.
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Human infants, like immature members of any species, must be highly selective in sampling information from their environment to learn efficiently. Failure to be selective would waste precious computational resources on material that is already known (too simple) or unknowable (too complex). In two experiments with 7- and 8-month-olds, we measure infants' visual attention to sequences of events varying in complexity, as determined by an ideal learner model. Infants' probability of looking away was greatest on stimulus items whose complexity (negative log probability) according to the model was either very low or very high. These results suggest a principle of infant attention that may have broad applicability: infants implicitly seek to maintain intermediate rates of information absorption and avoid wasting cognitive resources on overly simple or overly complex events.
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In addition to hand shaping, previous studies have shown that subjects adapt placement of individual digits to object properties such as its weight and center of mass. However, the extent to which digit placement varies based on task context is unknown. In the present study, we investigated where subjects place their digits on a bottle when the upcoming task (lift versus pour) and object content (i.e., amount of liquid: empty, half, and full) were manipulated. Our results showed that subjects anticipated both the upcoming task and content by varying digit placement when grasping the bottle prior to the onset of manipulation. Specifically, subjects increased the vertical distance between the thumb and index finger for pouring but not for lifting. This larger moment arm might have been established to decrease the amount of force required to tilt the bottle. Content also affected digit placement: the digits were placed higher and were wrapped more around the bottle with increasing content. This strategy may maximize grip surface contact, and hence grasp stability. These findings extend previous research showing that grasp planning not only takes place at a macroscopic level (whole-hand position relative to an object), but also at the level of individual digit placement. This finer level of control appears to be sensitive to the expected mechanical properties of the object and how these may affect grasp stability throughout the upcoming manipulation.
Book
Reaching for objects in our surroundings is an everyday activity that most humans perform seamlessly a hundred times a day. It is nonetheless a complex behavior that requires the perception of objects’ features, action selection, movement planning, multi-joint coordination, force regulation, and the integration of all of these properties during the actions themselves to meet the successful demands of extremely varied task goals. Even though reach-to-grasp behavior has been studied for decades, it has, in recent years, become a particularly growing area of multidisciplinary research because of its crucial role in activities of daily living and broad range of applications to other fields, including physical rehabilitation, prosthetics, and robotics. This volume brings together novel and exciting research that sheds light into the complex sensory-motor processes involved in the selection and production of reach-to-grasp behaviors. It also offers a unique life-span and multidisciplinary perspective on the development and multiple processes involved in the formation of reach-to-grasp. It covers recent and exciting discoveries from the fields of developmental psychology and learning sciences, neurophysiology and brain sciences, movement sciences, and the dynamic field of developmental robotics, which has become a very active applied field relying on biologically inspired models. This volume is a rich and valuable resource for students and professionals in all of these research fields, as well as cognitive sciences, rehabilitation, and other applied sciences.
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This article reviews the literature on infant reaching, from past to present, to recount how our understanding of the emergence and development of this early goal-directed behavior has changed over the decades. We show that the still widely-accepted view, which considers the emergence and development of infant reaching as occurring primarily under the control of vision, is no longer sustainable. Increasing evidence suggests that the developmental origins of infant reaching is embodied. We discuss the implications of this alternative view for the development of eye-hand coordination and we propose a new scenario stressing the importance of the infant body-centered sensorimotor experiences in the months prior to the emergence of reaching as a possible critical step for the formation of eye-hand coordination.
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Infants' motor skill development triggers changes in parent-infant interactions, exploration, and play behaviors, particularly during periods of locomotor transitions. We investigated how these transitions reorganized infants' and mothers' explorations of spatial layouts. Thirteen infants and their mothers were followed biweekly from the age of 6 to 17 months. This report focused on 2 periods of 6 sessions surrounding infants' hands-and-knees crawling and walking onsets. Infants' and mothers' activities were monitored during 10-min free-play sessions held in a laboratory room provided with toys and furniture. Using location coordinates for the mother and infant, we derived several measures of spatial displacement and exploration as both mother and infant moved around the room. We also observed variations in mothers' and infants' interactive behaviors and postural changes within and across sessions. Infants increased interactive behaviors, traveled further distances, and visited more places in the room over time than their mothers. This increase occurred particularly after infants became experienced hands-and-knees crawlers. The distance between infant and mother and number of postural changes also increased as infants became more mobile. This study reveals that mother-infant explorations of spatial layouts diversify and reorganize over time as infants develop new locomotor skills. (PsycINFO Database Record
Chapter
Motor skill emerges in development as a dynamic process through recurrent perception-action loops where knowledge of the external world is integrated with knowledge of self-movement as the body moves through a force field. This process leads to new movement forms as infants continually explore their body and task space through spontaneous and elicited movements. These new forms are imposed, however, as modifications of the body’s intrinsic dynamics, which are the product of the neuromuscular structures in particular energy and task contexts. In this chapter, I show how the techniques of inverse dynamics can be used to characterize the intrinsic dynamics of infant limb movements, particularly the apportionment of segmental torques. Even at an early age, perception-action loops may be sensitive to dynamic haptic and proprioceptive information.
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We investigated how repeated, five-minute familiarization sessions occurring once a week over a 6-week period influenced infants’ knowledge about the functional properties of a rake-like tool and their ability to use it for retrieving an out of reach object by 16 months of age. We found that infants, who were not allowed to touch the rake, but only to observe an adult retrieve an object with it, improved their performance. On the other hand, infants who were allowed to manually manipulate the rake and touch and move other objects with it did not improve their performance. The results, which were replicated in a string-pulling task, suggest that, although both motor and cognitive limitations affect performance, it is rather cognitive limitations that prevent infants from understanding the functional properties of the tool and from succeeding in such tool-use tasks. Furthermore, infants can overcome these cognitive limitations with only a few, brief demonstrations spaced over several weeks.
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The development of reaching in infancy has been the focus of much research attention for many decades. Several accounts have been put forth to explain the processes leading to the emergence of this fundamental behavior. In recent years, however, the dynamic systems, neuronal group selection, and approximate optimal control perspectives have contributed to offer a more comprehensive account of how reaching emerges and forms in early infancy. Furthermore, these contemporary theories provide insights into the concept of developmental trajectories, in which action, perception, functional values, and context play an important role in shaping the emergence and development of infant behavior. In this review, we briefly present the main tenets of two major past theories used to account for the development of reaching in infancy. Then, we focus on the theoretical concepts brought about by the more contemporary perspectives. We provide examples of developmental trajectories in support of these more recent perspectives. We emphasize that one commonality across these contemporary perspectives is the importance of repeated cycles of perception and action, which aid in the exploration and selection of successful reaching movements over time.
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Developmental transitions, such as the onset of walking, are associated with changes in a broad range of domains, including language development and social interactions. This study used a full-day home observation recording to compare the language environment of age-matched crawling and walking infants. Central to the study was exploring how the language environment related to vocabulary development of each locomotor group. Adult words, infant vocalizations, and parent-child conversational turn-taking were positively associated with infant vocabulary development, but only for walking infants. These findings provide further evidence for the integrated nature of infant locomotion, language development, and the social and linguistic environment.
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Two basic concepts of James Gibson's ecological theory of perception are information and affordance. Discovering the information that specifies an affordance is a task confronting all of us and is an essential process in development. Information in the world is manifold and must be narrowed down to perceive what specifies an affordance. Perceptual learning is the process that we study to understand how this comes about.
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The acquisition of walking has recently been linked with infant language development (Walle & Campos, 2014). If this relation reflects the consequence of an epigenetic event, then it should be present regardless of when the infant typically begins to walk, the infant's culture, and the infant's native language. This study sought to replicate the previously reported link between walking and language development in American infants and investigate whether this relation exists cross-nationally in typically developing Chinese infants exposed to Mandarin. Urban Chinese infants not only provide a distinct linguistic and cultural population in which to study this relation but also typically begin walking approximately 6 weeks later than American infants. Our results demonstrated that (1) walking infants in both the American and Chinese samples had greater receptive and productive vocabularies than same-aged crawling infants, (2) differences between crawling and walking infants were proportionally similar in each sample, and (3) the walking-language relation was present for both noun and non-noun vocabularies. These findings provide further support of a relation between infant walking onset and language development, independent of age. Avenues for future research of the processes involved in this relation, as well as additional populations of interest to investigate, are discussed.
Article
Bronson (1974) reviewed evidence in support of the claim that the development of visually guided behavior in the human infant over the first few months of life represents a shift from subcortical to cortical visual processing. Recently, this view has been brought into question for two reasons; first, evidence revealing apparently sophisticated perceptual abilities in the newborn, and second, increasing evidence for multiple cortica streams of visual processing. The present paper presents a reanalysis of the relation between the maturation of cortical pathways and the development of visually guided behavior, focusing in particular on how the maturational state of the primary visual cortex may constrain the functioning of neural pathways subserving oculomotor control.
Article
In this paper, I outline the major properties of learning affordances. This learning is a process of differentiation and selection, not addition or construction from smaller units. Selection is based on the affordance fit and the reduction of uncertainty. I describe illustrative studies of human infants.
Article
The current study examines the developmental trajectory of banging movements and its implications for tool use development. Twenty (6- to 15-month-old) infants wore reflective markers while banging a handled cube; movements were recorded at 240 Hz. Results indicated that through the second half-year, banging movements undergo developmental changes making them ideally suited for instrumental hammering and pounding. Younger infants were inefficient and variable when banging the object: Their hands followed circuitous paths of great lengths at high velocities. By 1 year, infants showed consistent and efficient straight up-down hand trajectories of smaller magnitude and velocity, allowing for precise aiming and delivering dependable levels of force. The findings suggest that tool use develops gradually from infants' existing manual behaviors.
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review the developmental chronology of bimanual coordination [in infants] / [review] early manifestations of interlimb coupling . . . as well as the fluctuating uni/bilateral patterns during reaching and grasping / [describe] the diversity of the patterns as a function of posture or object presentation / [examine] the temporal relationship between the two hands during bilateral movements / analyze progress in object manipulation, from patterns with undifferentiated roles for each hand, or patterns with only one hand active at a time, to patterns of coordination involving differentiated hand roles / [examine] the difficulty in temporal coordination within the last patterns mentioned / [propose] a tentative conclusion on the processes underlying such bimanual development (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
This is another research from the Yale Psycho-Clinic. The subjects were infants, twelve or more at each of the following ages: 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40 and 52 weeks. The study "is both a motion and frame-by-frame analysis of the cinema records of infant prehension of red cubes measuring one inch on an edge, and is both qualitative and quantitative in mature." It appears that there are ten types of grasp that infants of these ages use: no contact, contact, primitive squeeze, the squeeze grasp, the hand grasp, the palm grasp, the superior-palm grasp, the inferior-forefinger grasp, the forefinger grasp and the superior-forefinger grasp. The genetic history of these varieties is discussed. Literature on the nature of the sensory apparatus involved, as well as on brain development, is reviewed. Little or no literature has accumulated as yet on the type of investigation reported in the study. Plates are given showing children of different ages using the different types of prehension. A bibliography of 69 titles is appended. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Many theories of early word learning begin with the uncertainty inherent to learning a word from its co-occurrence with a visual scene. However, the relevant visual scene for infant word learning is neither from the adult theorist's view nor the mature partner's view, but is rather from the learner's personal view. Here we show that when 18-month old infants interacted with objects in play with their parents, they created moments in which a single object was visually dominant. If parents named the object during these moments of bottom-up selectivity, later forced-choice tests showed that infants learned the name, but did not when naming occurred during a less visually selective moment. The momentary visual input for parents and toddlers was captured via head cameras placed low on each participant's forehead as parents played with and named objects for their infant. Frame-by-frame analyses of the head camera images at and around naming moments were conducted to determine the visual properties at input that were associated with learning. The analyses indicated that learning occurred when bottom-up visual information was clean and uncluttered. The sensory-motor behaviors of infants and parents were also analyzed to determine how their actions on the objects may have created these optimal visual moments for learning. The results are discussed with respect to early word learning, embodied attention, and the social role of parents in early word learning.
Article
By 7 months, infants, when reaching for an object, visually guide their grasp by preorienting their hands to match the object's orientation. Evidence at earlier ages, however, for prospective grasp control via anticipatory hand orientation is mixed. This study examined longitudinally the development of anticipatory hand orientation in 15 infants, seen every 3 weeks between 5 and 7.5 months. On each visit, infants were given 8 trials of reaching for an object oriented vertically and horizontally. Hand orientation at the first point of contact, prior to any tactile feedback, indexed infant prospective grasp. Between 5 and 7 months, infants showed evidence for qualitative transition in prospective control of grasp, supporting the contention that control of grasp shifts from being based on tactual feedback to being visually and therefore prospectively based. Implications for how prospective grasp emerges developmen-tally are discussed.
Article
Piaget's (1952) question of how the adult mind emerges from the sensorimotor infant is still the framing issue for developmental psychology. Here I suggest that real-life skill is better understood if the sensorimotor origins of cognition are not abandoned. Skilled people are not only better at both abstract and logical thinking but also at processing the world “online” and, most important, seamlessly and rapidly shifting between the two modes. I illustrate the tight coupling between action, perception, and cognition in early life and propose that this coupling remains but becomes more flexibly adaptive. Further, I show that the language of dynamics is appropriate to capture these mind-body-world interconnections.
Article
The issue examined was whether infants require sight of their hand when first beginning to reach for, contact, and grasp objects. 7 infants were repeatedly tested between 6 and 25 weeks of age. Each session consisted of 8 trials of objects presented in the light and 8 trials of glowing or sounding objects in complete darkness. Infants first contacted the object in both conditions at comparable ages (mean age for light, 12.3 weeks, and for dark, 11.9 weeks). Infants first grasped the object in the light at 16.0 weeks and in the dark at 14.7 weeks, a nonsignificant difference. Once contact was observed, infants continued to touch and grasp the objects in both light and dark throughout all sessions. Because infants could not see their hand or arm in the dark, their early success in contacting the glowing and sounding objects indicates that proprioceptive cues, not sight of the limb, guided their early reaching. Reaching in the light developed in parallel with reaching in the dark, suggesting that visual guidance of the hand is not necessary to achieve object contact either at the onset of successful reaching or in the succeeding weeks.
Article
This investigation measured the accuracy of reaching in infants wearing 30-diopter prisms. Infants varied in age from 4 to 10 months. Although accuracy was barely affected, the reach trajectories indicated that infants switched from a miss path to a hit path in midcourse. There was some evidence to support the view that visually directed reaching was operative in the youngest infants and that it improved with age.
Article
The ability of infants to perceive an angle as the relationship between two lines as opposed to independent line segments was examined in 6- and 14-week-old infants. Sixteen infants at each age were habituated to a single angle and then tested with four stimuli designed to differentiate between perception based upon angularity versus the orientation of the line segments. 14-week-old infants dishabituated only to a change in angle and not to a change in orientation. However, the 6-week-old infants did the opposite, dishabituating only to a change in orientation. These results supported the claim that 2- to 4-month-old infants perceive angular relations but tended to refute the claim that this ability is innate. Instead they may indicate an important developmental shift in perceptual ability sometime after 6 weeks of age.
Article
Researchers agree that infants must learn from prior sensory-motor experiences to plan, perform, and fine-tune their actions to the environment. Yet, little is known about the actual influences of these experiences on the development of infants’ perception and action. This study investigated how repeated experiences of seeing, reaching for, touching, grasping, and manipulating objects of same sizes and textures contributed to the refinement of subsequent object-oriented motor responses in 6–9-month old infants. In addition, to understand whether infants relied on vision, touch, or both to tailor their motor response to objects, we analyzed the reach-to-grasp sequences. Results show that the youngest infants did not benefit from the repeated experiences. Seemingly stereotypical motor responses appeared to interfere with the process of perceptual-motor mapping. The older infants relied more effectively on prior experience, on touch initially and then vision, to match their motor responses to objects. Consistent with a dynamic systems approach, we interpret the observed developmental progression as a change in tensions between perception and action.
Article
Previous studies on reaching and grasping have suggested that infants need considerable experience at both seeing and touching in order to develop responses adapted to the environment. Such an account, however, does not reveal how appropriate perception-action matching emerges from these repeated experiences at seeing and touching. The present research addresses this issue by investigating the dynamics of perceiving and acting in 5- to 9-month-old infants as they saw, reached for, touched, and grasped objects of different sizes and texture. To gain insights into the mechanisms of change that underlie pattern formation, we observed infants’ responses as a function of time, as infants reached for and manipulated objects successively. We found that the developmental process by which appropriate perception-action matching emerges is tied to important changes in the motor system. Before 8 months, infants’ reaching responses are constrained by systemic motor tendencies that conflict with the process of perceptual-motor mapping. When these motor tendencies disappear, infants are able to use and integrate visual and haptic information to scale their actions to objects. These results are consistent with a dynamic systems approach, which views behavioral changes and their underlying psychological processes as the product of continuous tensions and interactions between the organism’s own constraints and the characteristics of the task at hand.
Article
Three experiments were conducted to explore the emergence of sensitivity to the pictorial depth cues of texture gradient and linear perspective. In experiment 1, an initial longitudinal study explored the emergence of sensitivity to pictorial depth information between 5 and 7 months of age. In experiment 2, a cross-sectional study with 5–7-month-olds assessed revised methods designed to study development of pictorial depth sensitivity in individual infants. Experiment 3 applied these methods to a second sample of infants studied longitudinally. The results showed that: (a) a reliable method for assessing sensitivity in individual infants has been constructed; (b) there is variability in the age at which infants begin to use linear perspective and texture gradient for perceiving depth (22–28 weeks of age); and (c) sensitivity emerges across 2–8 weeks.
Article
The developmental course of visually guided reaching is discussed. Evidence is presented to establish that following its emergence at about 4 months and a period of intense practice, visually guided reaching declines in practice. This decline is attributed to skill mastery, and the visually elicited reaches exhibited after the decline are distinguished from those of very young infants. It is proposed that because of the release of attention that it entails, the decline of visually guided reaching may be an important factor in infants' cognitive development.
Article
The processes of infant word segmentation and infant word learning have largely been studied separately. However, the ease with which potential word forms are segmented from fluent speech seems likely to influence subsequent mappings between words and their referents. To explore this process, we tested the link between the statistical coherence of sequences presented in fluent speech and infants' subsequent use of those sequences as labels for novel objects. Notably, the materials were drawn from a natural language unfamiliar to the infants (Italian). The results of three experiments suggest that there is a close relationship between the statistics of the speech stream and subsequent mapping of labels to referents. Mapping was facilitated when the labels contained high transitional probabilities in the forward and/or backward direction (Experiment 1). When no transitional probability information was available (Experiment 2), or when the internal transitional probabilities of the labels were low in both directions (Experiment 3), infants failed to link the labels to their referents. Word learning appears to be strongly influenced by infants' prior experience with the distribution of sounds that make up words in natural languages.
Article
Statistical learning - implicit learning of statistical regularities within sensory input - is a way of acquiring structure within continuous sensory environments. Statistics computation, initially shown to be involved in word segmentation, has been demonstrated to be a general mechanism that operates across domains, across time and space, and across species. Recently, statistical leaning has been reported to be present even at birth when newborns were tested with a speech stream. The aim of the present study was to extend this finding, by investigating whether newborns' ability to extract statistics operates in multiple modalities, as found for older infants and adults. Using the habituation procedure, two experiments were carried out in which visual sequences were presented. Results demonstrate that statistical learning is a general mechanism that extracts statistics across domain since the onset of sensory experience. Intriguingly, present data reveal that newborn learner's limited cognitive resources constrain the functioning of statistical learning, narrowing the range of what can be learned.
Article
The anticipation of two object dimensions during grasping was investigated in 10- and 12-month-olds. We presented objects varying in both orientation and size and analyzed infants' anticipatory hand configurations. We found in Experiment 1 that nearly all of the 12-month-olds (94%), but less than half of the 10-month-olds (40%), anticipated both dimensions before touching the object. Experiment 2 ruled out the possibility that this behavior resulted from the infants' inability to anticipate the size of the stimuli. Thus, integrating two object dimensions during reaching seems to be difficult for 10-month-olds. In addition, we found a sequential adjustment when two dimensions were considered: Infants first adjusted the orientation and then the size. The implications of our findings concerning the planning and execution of grasping movements are discussed.