Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Infants' avoidance of drop-off reflects specific motor ability, not fear

Date:
August 21, 2012
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
Researchers have long studied infants' perceptions of safe and risky ground by observing their willingness to cross a visual cliff, a large drop-off covered with a solid glass surface. Now a new study has found that although infants learn to avoid the drop-off while crawling, this knowledge doesn't transfer to walking. This suggests that what infants learn is to perceive the limits of their ability to crawl or walk, not a generalized fear of heights.

Researchers have long studied infants' perceptions of safe and risky ground by observing their willingness to cross a visual cliff, a large drop-off covered with a solid glass surface. In crawling, infants grow more likely to avoid the apparent drop-off, leading researchers to conclude that they have a fear of heights. Now a new study has found that although infants learn to avoid the drop-off while crawling, this knowledge doesn't transfer to walking. This suggests that what infants learn is to perceive the limits of their ability to crawl or walk, not a generalized fear of heights. The findings have implications for infants' safety.

The study, by researchers at New York University, is published in the journal Child Development.

In the study, researchers tested about 50 children, including 12-month-old experienced crawlers, 12-month-old novice walkers, and 18-month-old experienced walkers. Caregivers encouraged the babies to descend a series of drop-offs that were safe or risky, relative to each of the infants' abilities. Instead of a visual cliff with a fixed height, researchers used an actual, adjustable cliff without safety glass with a maximum height of 90 cm; an experimenter rescued infants if they began to fall. On each trial, researchers recorded whether the infants tried to crawl or walk down the drop-off, avoided going at all, or used an alternative backing or scooting strategy.

Experienced crawlers tried to crawl down safe drop-offs within their abilities and refused to crawl down drop-offs that were too large relative to their abilities, the study found. However, novice walkers attempted to walk down impossibly large drop-offs, even the 90-cm cliff. Experienced walkers didn't try to walk down risky drop-offs, but did go down using alternative strategies, indicating that they weren't afraid of the drop-off.

"These results suggest that the classic explanation for why infants come to avoid a drop-off -- fear of heights -- is incorrect," according to Karen E. Adolph, professor of psychology and neural science at New York University, one of the study's coauthors. "Our results have important theoretical implications for the field of child development, suggesting that some of the general knowledge that infants appear to gain early in life may in fact be highly specific and tightly linked to their emerging motor abilities."

Adolph noted that the findings also have practical implications for infant safety. When designing safety provisions for young infants, she suggested, special attention should be paid to newly emerging skills as these are the times when infants can't perceive the limits of their own abilities and don't seem to distinguish safe from risky ground.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kari S. Kretch, Karen E. Adolph. Cliff or Step? Posture-Specific Learning at the Edge of a Drop-Off. Child Development, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01842.x

Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Infants' avoidance of drop-off reflects specific motor ability, not fear." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120821094243.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2012, August 21). Infants' avoidance of drop-off reflects specific motor ability, not fear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120821094243.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Infants' avoidance of drop-off reflects specific motor ability, not fear." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120821094243.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins