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J Exp Child Psychol. 2007 Nov;98(3):153-67. Epub 2007 Sep 21.

Infant manual exploration of composite substrates.

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Department of Psychology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA.


Everyday environments, even small regions within reach, vary dramatically in terms of material composition. Adapting one's manual behavior to such transitions can be considered to be an important element of skilled action. To investigate the origins of this ability, we presented 8-month-olds (n=24) and 10-month-olds (n=24) hard or soft objects on a composite tabletop substrate that was half rigid and half flexible. Results indicated infants explored the objects selectively and geared their manual behaviors, with or without an object in hand, to the particular substrate they contacted. More broadly, the study suggests that infant manual exploration is flexible even in the face of abrupt transitions in material structure. Such flexibility may support early attempts at problem solving and tool use.

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