Anticipatory adjustments to being picked up in infancy

Vasu Reddy, Gabriela Markova, S. Wallot

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Anticipation of the actions of others is often used as a measure of action understanding in infancy. In contrast to studies of action understanding which set infants up as observers of actions directed elsewhere, in the present study we explored anticipatory postural adjustments made by infants to one of the most common adult actions directed to them – picking them up. We observed infant behavioural changes and recorded their postural shifts on a pressure mat in three phases: (i) a prior Chat phase, (ii) from the onset of Approach of the mother’s arms, and (iii) from the onset of Contact. In Study 1, eighteen 3-month-old infants showed systematic global postural changes during Approach and Contact, but not during Chat. There was an increase in specific adjustments of the arms (widening or raising) and legs (stiffening and extending or tucking up) during Approach and a decrease in thrashing/general movements during Contact. Shifts in postural stability were evident immediately after onset of Approach and more slowly after Contact, with no regular shifts during Chat. In Study 2 we followed ten infants at 2, 3 and 4 months of age. Anticipatory behavioural adjustments during Approach were present at all ages, but with greater differentiation from a prior Chat phase only at 3 and 4 months. Global postural shifts were also more phase differentiated in older infants. Moreover, there was significantly greater gaze to the mother’s hands during Approach at 4 months. Early anticipatory adjustments to being picked up suggest that infants’ awareness of actions directed to the self may occur earlier than of those directed elsewhere, and thus enable infants’ active participation in joint actions from early in life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e65289
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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