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Learning From Falling Amy S. Joh and Karen E. Adolph

Summary: Learning From Falling
Amy S. Joh and Karen E. Adolph
New York University
Walkers fall frequently, especially during infancy. Children (15-, 21-, 27-, 33-, and 39-month-olds) and adults
were tested in a novel foam pit paradigm to examine age-related changes in the relationship between falling and
prospective control of locomotion. In trial 1, participants walked and fell into a deformable foam pit marked
with distinct visual cues. Although children in all 5 age groups required multiple trials to learn to avoid falling,
the number of children who showed adult-like, 1-trial learning increased with age. Exploration and alternative
locomotor strategies increased dramatically on learning criterion trials and displays of negative affect were
limited. Learning from falling is discussed in terms of the immediate and long-term effects of falling on pro-
spective control of locomotion.
Prospective Control of Locomotion
Adaptive locomotion requires prospective control:
detecting upcoming threats to balance, selecting ap-
propriate locomotor strategies, and modifying them
continuously. Walkers' own movements and the en-
vironmental layout provide perceptual information
that serves as the basis for prospective control. Adult
walkers are so exquisitely adept at avoiding obsta-
cles that prospective control appears seamless and


Source: Adolph, Karen - Center for Neural Science & Department of Psychology, New York University


Collections: Biology and Medicine