Affordance realization in climbing: learning and transfer

Ludovic Seifert, Dominic Orth, Bruno Mantel, Jérémie Boulanger, Romain Hérault, Matt Dicks

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The aim of this study was to investigate how the affordances of an indoor climbing wall changed for intermediate climbers following a period of practice during which hold orientation was manipulated within a learning and transfer protocol. The learning protocol consisted of four sessions, in which eight climbers randomly ascended three different routes of fixed absolute difficulty (5c on the French scale), as fluently as possible. All three routes were 10.3 m in height and composed of 20 hand-holds at the same locations on an artificial climbing wall; only hold orientations were altered: (i) a horizontal-edge route (H) was designed to afford horizontal hold grasping, (ii) a vertical-edge route (V) afforded vertical hold grasping, and (iii), a double-edge route (D) was designed to afford both horizontal and vertical hold grasping. Five inertial measurement units (IMU) (3D accelerometer, 3D gyroscope, 3D magnetometer) were attached to the hip, feet and forearms to analyze the vertical acceleration and direction (3D unitary vector) of each limb and hip in ambient space during the entire ascent. Segmentation and classification processes supported detection of movement and stationary phases for each IMU. Depending on whether limbs and/or hip were moving, a decision tree distinguished four states of behavior: stationary (absence of limb and hip motion), hold exploration (absence of hip motion but at least one limb in motion), hip movement (hip in motion but absence of limb motion) and global motion (hip in motion and at least one limb in motion). Results showed that with practice, the learners decreased the relative duration of hold exploration, suggesting that they improved affordance perception of hold grasp-ability. The number of performatory movements also decreased as performance increased during learning sessions, confirming that participants' climbing efficacy improved as a function of practice. Last, the results were more marked for the H route, while the D route led to longer relative stationary duration and a shorter relative duration of performatory states. Together, these findings emphasized the benefit of manipulating task constraints to promote safe exploration during learning, which is particularly relevant in extreme sports involving climbing tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number820
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2018


  • motor learning
  • affordance
  • exploration
  • perception
  • climbing


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