Cognition in locomotion: Infants' executive functioning in goal -directed locomotor tasks
Adaptive locomotor strategies such as using a banister and executing a detour require higher-level cognitive processes. I present two sets of studies which examine the role of executive functions such as means/ends coordination, planning, and inhibition in adaptive locomotion. In two locomotor versions of Piaget's classic A-not-B task, 13-month-old walking infants inhibited a prepotent response under low task demands but perseverated under increased task demands. Results belie existing explanations for infant perseveration based on incomplete mental representations, motor habits, or memory demands. Evidence supports a cognitive capacity theory, where infants' performance depends on allocation of cognitive and attentional resources. In two locomotor versions of a tool-use task, 16-month-old toddlers recognized that a novel handrail augmented their balance capabilities for walking over narrow bridges. Their behavioral adaptations reflect the ability to integrate external and individual factors into a complete multi-step strategy. Results from both sets of studies indicate that the cognitive processes implicated in locomotion are graded rather than all or none.
0633: Cognitive therapy