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How mothers help children learn to use everyday objects

Kaplan, Brianna E; Kasaba, Isabella; Rachwani, Jaya; Adolph, Karen E; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine S
Children must learn specific motor actions to use everyday objects as their designers intended. However, designed actions are not obvious to children and often are difficult to implement. Children must know what actions to do and how to execute them. Previous work identified a protracted developmental progression in learning designed actions-from nondesigned exploratory actions, to display of the designed action, to successful implementation. Presumably, caregivers can help children to overcome the challenges in discovering and implementing designed actions. Mothers of 12-, 18- to 24-, and 30- to 36-month-olds (N = 74) were asked to teach their children to open containers with twist-off or pull-off lids. Mothers' manual and verbal input aligned with the developmental progression and with children's actions in the moment, pointing to the role of attuned social information in helping children learn to use objects for activities of daily living. However, mothers sometimes "overhelped" by implementing designed actions for children instead of getting children to do it themselves, highlighting the challenges of teaching novices difficult motor actions.
PMID: 38010304
ISSN: 1098-2302
CID: 5613772

How to get rich quick: Using video to enrich psychology and neuroscience research Comment on "Beyond simple laboratory studies: Developing sophisticated models to study rich behavior" by Maselli et al

Adolph, Karen E; Froemke, Robert C
PMID: 38061248
ISSN: 1873-1457
CID: 5591362

"Go, go, go!" Mothers' verbs align with infants' locomotion

West, Kelsey L; Saleh, Annissa N; Adolph, Karen E; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine S
Caregivers often tailor their language to infants' ongoing actions (e.g., "are you stacking the blocks?"). When infants develop new motor skills, do caregivers show concomitant changes in their language input? We tested whether the use of verbs that refer to locomotor actions (e.g., "come," "bring," "walk") differed for mothers of 13-month-old crawling (N = 16) and walking infants (N = 16), and mothers of 18-month-old experienced walkers (N = 16). Mothers directed twice as many locomotor verbs to walkers compared to same-age crawlers, but mothers' locomotor verbs were similar for younger and older walkers. In real-time, mothers' use of locomotor verbs was dense when infants were locomoting, and sparse when infants were stationary, regardless of infants' crawler/walker status. Consequently, infants who spent more time in motion received more locomotor verbs compared to infants who moved less frequently. Findings indicate that infants' motor skills guide their in-the-moment behaviors, which in turn shape the language they receive from caregivers. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS: Infants' motor skills guide their in-the-moment behaviors, which in turn shape the language they receive from caregivers. Mothers directed more frequent and diverse verbs that referenced locomotion (e.g., "come," "go," "bring") to walking infants compared to same-aged crawling infants. Mothers' locomotor verbs were temporally dense when infants locomoted and sparse when infants were stationary, regardless of whether infants could walk or only crawl.
PMID: 37078147
ISSN: 1467-7687
CID: 5609972

Protracted development of motor cortex constrains rich interpretations of infant cognition

Blumberg, Mark S; Adolph, Karen E
Cognition in preverbal human infants must be inferred from overt motor behaviors such as gaze shifts, head turns, or reaching for objects. However, infant mammals - including human infants - show protracted postnatal development of cortical motor outflow. Cortical control of eye, face, head, and limb movements is absent at birth and slowly emerges over the first postnatal year and beyond. Accordingly, the neonatal cortex in humans cannot generate the motor behaviors routinely used to support inferences about infants' cognitive abilities, and thus claims of developmental continuity between infant and adult cognition are suspect. Recognition of the protracted development of motor cortex should temper rich interpretations of infant cognition and motivate more serious consideration of the role of subcortical mechanisms in early cognitive development.
PMID: 36681607
ISSN: 1879-307x
CID: 5457142

Gahvora cradling in Tajikistan: Cultural practices and associations with motor development

Karasik, Lana B; Adolph, Karen E; Fernandes, Sara N; Robinson, Scott R; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine S
In Tajikistan, infants are bound supine in a "gahvora" cradle that severely restricts movement. Does cradling affect motor development and body growth? In three studies (2013-2018), we investigated associations between time in the gahvora (within days and across age) and motor skills and flattened head dimensions in 8-24-month-old Tajik infants (N = 269, 133 girls, 136 boys)) and 4.3-5.1-year-old children (N = 91, 53 girls, 38 boys). Infants had later motor onset ages relative to World Health Organization standards and pronounced brachycephaly; cradling predicted walk onset age and the proficiency of sitting, crawling, and walking. By 4-5 years, children's motor skills were comparable with US norms. Cultural differences in early experiences offer a unique lens onto developmental processes and equifinality in development.
PMID: 37016553
ISSN: 1467-8624
CID: 5457152

Eleanor J. Gibson – Interview and reflection

Chapter by: Szokolszky, Agnes; Read, Catherine; Palatinus, Zsolt; Adolph, Karen
in: Intellectual Journeys in Ecological Psychology : Interviews and Reflections from Pioneers in the Field by Szokolszky, Agnes; et al [Eds]
pp. ?-
ISBN: 9780367750107
CID: 5457772

The process of learning the designed actions of toys

Kaplan, Brianna E; Rachwani, Jaya; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine S; Adolph, Karen E
Many everyday objects require "hidden" affordances to use as designed (e.g., twist open a water bottle). Previous work found a reliable developmental progression in children's learning of designed actions with adult objects such as containers and zippers-from non-designed exploratory actions, to the basics of the designed action, to successful implementation. Many objects designed for children (e.g., toys) also entail designed actions (e.g., interlocking bricks) but might not require a protracted period of discovery and implementation. We encouraged 12- to 60-month-old children (n = 91) and a comparative sample of 20 adults to play with six Duplo bricks to test whether the developmental progression identified for children's learning of adult objects with hidden affordances holds for a popular toy expressly designed for children. We also examined whether children's moment-to-moment behaviors with Duplo bricks inform on general processes involved in discovery and implementation of hidden affordances. With age, children progressed from non-designed exploratory actions, to attempts to interlock, to success, suggesting that the three-step developmental progression revealed with everyday adult objects broadly applies to learning hidden affordances regardless of object type. Detailing the process of learning (the type and timing of children's non-designed actions and attempts to interlock) revealed that the degree of lag between steps of the progression depends on the transparency of the required actions, the availability of perceptual feedback, and the difficulty of the perceptual-motor requirements. Findings provide insights into factors that help or hinder learning of hidden affordances.
PMID: 35525170
ISSN: 1096-0457
CID: 5249442

Autism: The face value of eye contact [Comment]

Adolph, Karen E; West, Kelsey L
Inattention to faces in clinical assessments is a robust marker for autism. However, a new study distinguishes diagnostic marker from behavioral mechanism, showing that face looking in everyday activity is equally rare in autistic and neurotypical children and not required for joint attention in either group.
PMID: 35728531
ISSN: 1879-0445
CID: 5457132

Flexibility in action: Development of locomotion under overhead barriers

Rachwani, Jaya; Herzberg, Orit; Kaplan, Brianna E; Comalli, David M; O'Grady, Sinclaire; Adolph, Karen E
Behavioral flexibility-the ability to tailor motor actions to changing body-environment relations-is critical for functional movement. Navigating the everyday environment requires the ability to generate a wide repertoire of actions, select the appropriate action for the current situation, and implement it quickly and accurately. We used a new, adjustable barrier paradigm to assess flexibility of motor actions in 20 17-month-old (eight girls, 12 boys) and 14 13-month-old (seven girls, eight boys) walking infants and a comparative sample of 14 adults (eight women, six men). Most participants were White, non-Hispanic, and middle class. Participants navigated under barriers normalized to their standing height (overhead, eye, chest, hip, and knee heights). Decreases in barrier height required lower postures for passage. Every participant altered their initial walking posture according to barrier height for every trial, and all but two 13-month-olds found solutions for passage. Compared to infants, adults displayed a wider variety of strategies (squat-walking, half-kneeling, etc.), found more appropriate solutions based on barrier height (ducked at eye height and low crawled at knee height), and implemented their solutions more quickly (within 4 s) and accurately (without bumping their heads against the barrier). Infants frequently crawled even when the barrier height did not warrant a low posture, displayed multiple postural shifts prior to passage and thus took longer to go, and often bumped their heads. Infants' improvements were related to age and walking experience. Thus, development of flexibility likely involves the contributions of multiple domains-motor, perception, and cognition-that facilitate strategy selection and implementation. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
PMID: 35311311
ISSN: 1939-0599
CID: 5387672

Mothers talk about infants' actions: How verbs correspond to infants' real-time behavior

West, Kelsey L; Fletcher, Katelyn K; Adolph, Karen E; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine S
Infants learn nouns during object-naming events-moments when caregivers name the object of infants' play (e.g., ball as infant holds a ball). Do caregivers also label the actions of infants' play (e.g., roll as infant rolls a ball)? We investigated connections between mothers' verb inputs and infants' actions. We video-recorded 32 infant-mother dyads for 2 hr at home (13 month olds, n = 16; 18 month olds, n = 16; girls, n = 16; White, n = 23; Asian, n = 2; Black, n = 1; other, n = 1; multiple races, n = 5; Hispanic/Latinx, n = 2). Dyads were predominantly from middle-class to upper middle-class households. We identified each manual verb (e.g., press, shake) and whole-body verb (e.g., kick, go) that mothers directed to infants. We coded whether infants displayed manual and/or whole-body actions during a 6-s window surrounding the verb (i.e., 3 s prior and 3 s after the named verb). Mothers' verbs and infant actions were largely congruent: Whole-body verbs co-occurred with whole-body actions, and manual verbs co-occurred with manual actions. Moreover, half of mothers' verbs corresponded precisely to infants' concurrent action (e.g., infant pressed button as mother said, "Press the button"). In most instances, mothers commented on rather than instigated infants' actions. Findings suggest that verb learning is embodied, such that infants' motor actions offer powerful cues to verb meanings. Furthermore, our approach highlights the value of cross-domain research integrating infants' developing motor and language skills to understand word learning. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
PMID: 35286106
ISSN: 1939-0599
CID: 5181442