Infants’ prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment


This study investigates how infants use visual and sensorimotor information to prospectively control their actions. We gave 14-month-olds two objects of different weight and observed how high they were lifted, using a Qualisys Motion Capture System. In one condition, the two objects were visually distinct (different color condition) in another they were visually identical (same color condition). Lifting amplitudes of the first movement unit were analyzed in order to assess prospective control. Results demonstrate that infants lifted a light object higher than a heavy object, especially when vision could be used to assess weight (different color condition). When being confronted with two visually identical objects of different weight (same color condition), infants showed a different lifting pattern than what could be observed in the different color condition, expressed by a significant interaction effect between object weight and color condition on lifting amplitude. These results indicate that (a) visual information about object weight can be used to prospectively control lifting actions and that (b) infants are able to prospectively control their lifting actions even without visual information about object weight. We argue that infants, in the absence of reliable visual information about object weight, heighten their dependence on non-visual information (tactile, sensorimotor memory) in order to estimate weight and pre-adjust their lifting actions in a prospective manner.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement No. 289404 and from ERC-StG CACTUS 312292. We thank Claes von Hofsten for fruitful theoretical discussions, Torsten Leitner for valuable input and discussions on the physical background of force calculation, Estefanía Domínguez Martínez for helpful support in MATLAB programing, Mattias Stridbeck for illustrations, Marcus Lindskog for valuable input on probability calculations, Martyna Galazka for proofreading, and last but not least the members of the Uppsala Child and Baby Lab for constructive feedback on a previous version of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.

Ethical standard

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the regional ethics committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Correspondence to Janna M. Gottwald.

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Gottwald, J.M., Gredebäck, G. Infants’ prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment. Exp Brain Res 233, 2383–2390 (2015).

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  • Prospective control
  • Object manipulation
  • Sensorimotor
  • Action
  • Motor development
  • Motor control