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Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions: To what extent can infants' multiple step actions be explained by Fitts' law?
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Univ Padua, Dept Dev Psychol & Socializat, Padua, Italy.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
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2017 (English)In: Developmental Psychology, ISSN 0012-1649, E-ISSN 1939-0599, Vol. 53, no 1, 4-12 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Prospective motor control, a key element of action planning, is the ability to adjust one's actions with respect to task demands and action goals in an anticipatory manner. The current study investigates whether 14-month-olds can prospectively control their reaching actions based on the difficulty of the subsequent action. We used a reach-to-place task, with difficulty of the placing action varied by goal size and goal distance. To target prospective motor control, we determined the kinematics of the prior reaching movements using a motion-tracking system. Peak velocity of the first movement unit of the reach served as indicator for prospective motor control. Both difficulty aspects (goal size and goal distance) affected prior reaching, suggesting that both these aspects of the subsequent action have an impact on the prior action. The smaller the goal size and the longer the distance to the goal, the slower infants were in the beginning of their reach toward the object. Additionally, we modeled movement times of both reaching and placing actions using a formulation of Fitts' law (as in heading). The model was significant for placement and reaching movement times. These findings suggest that 14-month-olds can plan their future actions and prospectively control their related movements with respect to future task difficulties.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 53, no 1, 4-12 p.
Keyword [en]
prospective motor control, action planning, action sequence, action development, movement unit, Fitts' law, infancy
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297638DOI: 10.1037/dev0000212ISI: 000391700500002PubMedID: 28026189OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-297638DiVA: diva2:942674
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 289404
Available from: 2016-06-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2017-02-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Infants in Control: Prospective Motor Control and Executive Functions in Action Development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants in Control: Prospective Motor Control and Executive Functions in Action Development
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis assesses the link between action and cognition early in development. Thus the notion of an embodied cognition is investigated by tying together two levels of action control in the context of reaching in infancy: prospective motor control and executive functions.

The ability to plan our actions is the inevitable foundation of reaching our goals. Thus actions can be stratified on different levels of control. There is the relatively low level of prospective motor control and the comparatively high level of cognitive control. Prospective motor control is concerned with goal-directed actions on the level of single movements and movement combinations of our body and ensures purposeful, coordinated movements, such as reaching for a cup of coffee. Cognitive control, in the context of this thesis more precisely referred to as executive functions, deals with goal-directed actions on the level of whole actions and action combinations and facilitates directedness towards mid- and long-term goals, such as finishing a doctoral thesis. Whereas prospective motor control and executive functions are well studied in adulthood, the early development of both is not sufficiently understood.

This thesis comprises three empirical motion-tracking studies that shed light on prospective motor control and executive functions in infancy. Study I investigated the prospective motor control of current actions by having 14-month-olds lift objects of varying weights. In doing so, multi-cue integration was addressed by comparing the use of visual and non-visual information to non-visual information only. Study II examined the prospective motor control of future actions in action sequences by investigating reach-to-place actions in 14-month-olds. Thus the extent to which Fitts’ law can explain movement duration in infancy was addressed. Study III lifted prospective motor control to a higher that is cognitive level, by investigating it relative to executive functions in 18-months-olds.

Main results were that 14-month-olds are able to prospectively control their manual actions based on object weight. In this action planning process, infants use different sources of information. Beyond this ability to prospectively control their current action, 14-month-olds also take future actions into account and plan their actions based on the difficulty of the subsequent action in action sequences. In 18-month-olds, prospective motor control in manual actions, such as reaching, is related to early executive functions, as demonstrated for behavioral prohibition and working memory. These findings are consistent with the idea that executive functions derive from prospective motor control. I suggest that executive functions could be grounded in the development of motor control. In other words, early executive functions should be seen as embodied. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. 103 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 127
Keyword
infant development, action development, prospective motor control, executive functions, action planning, motor development, motion tracking, embodied cognition, developmental psychology
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297642 (URN)978-91-554-9618-0 (ISBN)
External cooperation:
Public defence
2016-09-16, Sydnez Alrutz (13:026), von Kraemers Allé 1A (Blåsenhus), Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-08-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2016-09-05

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