Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 460–472 | Cite as

Gut estimates: Pregnant women adapt to changing possibilities for squeezing through doorways



Possibilities for action depend on the fit between the body and the environment. Perceiving what actions are possible is challenging, because the body and the environment are always changing. How do people adapt to changes in body size and compression? In Experiment 1, we tested pregnant women monthly over the course of pregnancy to determine whether they adapted to changing possibilities for squeezing through doorways. As women gained belly girth and weight, previously passable doorways were no longer passable, but women’s decisions to attempt passage tracked their changing abilities. Moreover, their accuracy was equivalent to that of nonpregnant adults. In Experiment 2, nonpregnant adults wore a “pregnancy pack” that instantly increased the size of their bellies, and they judged whether doorways were passable. Accuracy in the “pregnant” participants was only marginally worse than that of actual pregnant women, suggesting that participants adapted to the prosthesis during the test session. In Experiment 3, participants wore the pregnancy pack and gauged passability before and after attempting passage. The judgments were grossly inaccurate prior to receiving feedback. These findings indicate that experience facilitates perceptual–motor recalibration for certain types of actions.


Perception and action Locomotion Navigation 


  1. Abrams, B., Carmichael, S., & Selvin, S. (1995). Factors associated with the pattern of maternal weight gain during pregnancy. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 86, 170–176.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Adolph, K. E. (2008). The growing body in action: What infant locomotion tells us about perceptually guided action. In R. Klatzy, M. Behrmann, & B. MacWhinney (Eds.), Embodiment, ego-space, and action (pp. 275–321). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  3. Adolph, K. E., & Joh, A. S. (2009). Multiple learning mechanisms in the development of action. In A. Woodward & A. Needham (Eds.), Learning and the infant mind (pp. 172–207). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bingham, G. P., & Pagano, C. C. (1998). The necessity of a perception–action approach to definite distance perception: Monocular distance perception to guide reaching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 145–168.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bird, A. R., Menz, H. B., & Hyde, C. C. (1999). The effect of pregnancy on footprint parameters. A prospective investigation. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, 89, 405–409.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bracero, L. A., & Byrne, D. W. (1998). Optimal maternal weight gain during singleton pregnancy. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 46, 9–16.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Butler, E. E., Colon, I., Druzin, M. L., & Rose, J. (2006). Postural equilibrium during pregnancy: Decreased stability with and increased reliance on visual cues. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 195, 1104–1108.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Carmichael, S., Abrams, B., & Selvin, S. (1997). The pattern of maternal weight gain in women with good pregnancy outcomes. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 1984–1988.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole, W. G., Chan, G. L. Y., & Adolph, K. E. (2013). Perceiving affordances for different motor skills. Experimental Brain Research, 225, 309–319.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Comalli, D. M., Franchak, J. M., Char, A., & Adolph, K. E. (2013). Ledge and wedge: Younger and older adults’ perception of action possibilities. Experimental Brain Research, 228, 183–192. doi:10.1007/s00221-013-3550-0 PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dunning, K., LeMasters, G., Levin, L., Bhattacharya, A., Alterman, T., & Lordo, K. (2003). Falls in workers during pregnancy: Risk factors, job hazards, and high risk occupations. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 44, 664–672.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Fath, A. J., & Fajen, B. R. (2011). Static and dynamic visual information about the size and passability of an aperture. Perception, 40, 887–904.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Foti, T., Davids, J. R., & Bagley, A. (2000). A biomechanical analysis of gait during pregnancy. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 82, 625–632.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Franchak, J. M., & Adolph, K. E. (2012). What infants know and what they do: Perceiving possibilities for walking through openings. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1254–1261.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Franchak, J. M., & Adolph, K. E. (2013). Affordances for action as probabilstic functions: Implications for development, perception, and decision-making. Ecological Psychology, (in press).Google Scholar
  16. Franchak, J. M., Celano, E. C., & Adolph, K. E. (2012). Perception of passage through openings cannot be explained geometric body dimensions alone. Experimental Brain Research, 223, 301–310.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Franchak, J. M., van der Zalm, D., & Adolph, K. E. (2010). Learning by doing: Action performance facilitates affordance perception. Vision Research, 50, 2758–2765.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fries, E. C., & Hellebrandt, F. A. (1943). The influence of pregnancy on the location of the center of gravity, postural stability, and body alignment. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 46, 374–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  20. Higuchi, T., Cinelli, M. E., Greig, M. A., & Patla, A. E. (2006). Locomotion through apertures when wider space for locomotion is necessary: Adaptation to artificially altered bodily states. Experimental Brain Research, 175, 50–59.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Higuchi, T., Murai, G., Kijima, A., Seya, Y., Wagman, J. B., & Imanaka, K. (2011). Athletic experience influences shoulder rotations when running through apertures. Human Movement Science, 30, 534–549.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Higuchi, T., Takada, H., Matsuura, Y., & Imanaka, K. (2004). Visual estimation of spatial requirements for locomotion in novice wheelchair users. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 10, 55–66.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Ishak, S., Adolph, K. E., & Lin, G. C. (2008). Perceiving affordances for fitting through apertures. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 1501–1514. doi:10.1037/a0011393 PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Jensen, R. K., Doucet, S., & Treitz, T. (1996). Changes in segment mass and mass distribution during pregnancy. Journal of Biomechanics, 29, 251–256.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Joh, A. S., & Adolph, K. E. (2006). Learning from falling. Child Development, 77, 89–102.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Joh, A. S., Adolph, K. E., Campbell, M. R., & Eppler, M. A. (2006). Why walkers slip: Shine is not a reliable cue for slippery ground. Perception & Psychophysics, 68, 339–352. doi:10.3758/BF03193681 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Joh, A. S., Adolph, K. E., Narayanan, P. J., & Dietz, V. A. (2007). Gauging possibilities for action based on friction underfoot. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33, 1145–1157. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.33.5.1145 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Mark, L. S. (1987). Eyeheight-scaled information about affordances: A study of sitting and stair climbing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 13, 361–370. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.13.3.361 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Mark, L. S., Baillet, J. A., Craver, K. D., Douglas, S. D., & Fox, T. (1990). What an actor must do in order to perceive the affordance for sitting. Ecological Psychology, 2, 325–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murkoff, H., & Mazel, M. (2008). What to expect when you’re expecting (4th ed.). New York, NY: Workman.Google Scholar
  31. Soltani, H., & Fraser, R. B. (2000). A longitudinal study of maternal anthropometric changes in normal weight, overweight and obese women during pregnancy and postpartum. British Journal of Nutrition, 84, 95–101.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Stefanucci, J. K., & Geuss, M. N. (2010). Duck! Scaling the height of a horizontal barrier to body height. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72, 1338–1349. doi:10.3758/APP.72.5.1338 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stoffregen, T. A., Yang, C., & Bardy, B. G. (2005). Affordance judgments and nonlocomotor body movement. Ecological Psychology, 17, 75–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Stoffregen, T. A., Yang, C., Giveans, M. R., Flanagan, M., & Bardy, B. G. (2009). Movement in the perception of an affordance for wheelchair locomotion. Ecological Psychology, 21, 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. US Institute of Medicine, Committee on Nutritional Status During Pregnancy and Lactation. (1990). Nutrition during pregnancy: Part I, Weight gain. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  36. Wagman, J. B., & Taylor, K. K. R. (2005). Perceiving affordances for aperture crossing for the person-plus-object system. Ecological Psychology, 17, 105–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Warren, W. H. (1984). Perceiving affordances: Visual guidance of stair climbing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 10, 683–703. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.10.5.683 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Warren, W. H., & Whang, S. (1987). Visual guidance of walking through apertures: Body-scaled information for affordances. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 13, 371–383.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Whitcome, K. K., Shapiro, L. J., & Lieberman, D. E. (2007). Fetal load and the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins. Nature, 450, 1075–1078.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Wichmann, F. A., & Hill, N. J. (2001). The psychometric function: II. Bootstrap-based confidence intervals and sampling. Perception & Psychophysics, 63, 1314–1329. doi:10.3758/BF03194545 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilmut, K., & Barnett, A. L. (2010). Locomotor adjustments when navigating through apertures. Human Movement Science, 29, 289–298.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Withagen, R., & Michaels, C. F. (2005). The role of feedback information for calibration and attunement in perceiving length by dynamic touch. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 1379–1390.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Wu, W., Meijer, O. G., Lamoth, C. J., Uegaki, K., van Dieën, J. H., Wuisman, P. I., … Beek, P. J. (2004). Gait coordination in pregnancy: Transverse pelvic and thoracic rotations and their relative phase. Clinical Biomechanics, 19, 480–488.Google Scholar
  44. Yu, Y., Bardy, B. G., & Stoffregen, T. A. (2011). Influences of head and torso movement before and during affordance perception. Journal of Motor Behavior, 43, 45–53.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations