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Development of affordance perception and recalibration in children and adults

John M Franchak
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 2019 March 11, 183: 100-114
Changes in the body over developmental time (e.g., physical growth) as well as over shorter timescales (e.g., wearing a backpack, carrying a large object) alter possibilities for motor action. How well can children recalibrate their perception of action possibilities to account for sudden changes to body size? The current study compared younger children (4-7 years), older children (8-11 years), and adults as they decided whether they could squeeze through doorways of varying widths. To test for age-related changes in recalibration to modified abilities versus perception of unmodified abilities, half of the participants wore a backpack while making judgments and squeezing through doorways and half did not. Results indicated that judgment accuracy improved with age but that participants had more difficulty when recalibrating to modified abilities. Bias in decision making also changed with age; whereas younger children made riskier decisions by attempting to fit through impossibly small doorways, older children were more cautious. Some particularly cautious participants never generated practice feedback by attempting (and failing) to fit through smaller doorways, which prevented them from recalibrating. Taken together with previous literature, the results of the current study suggest that the development of perception for unmodified versus modified ability proceeds at different rates and depends on the particular motor task.


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