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David I. Anderson

This paper summarizes a keynote presentation the author gave in 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) focused on the decade of research in motor development between 2007 and 2017. It was organized around an agenda for the future proposed by Thelen in the year 2000, which included 6 themes: multimodal perception and action, formal models and robotics, embodied cognition, neural bases of motor skill development, learning and plasticity, and cultural and individual differences. The author also covers an impactful area of research on the links between motor competence and physical activity and health-related fitness. Important discoveries between 2007 and 2017 have reinforced the idea that motor development makes a fundamental contribution to virtually every domain of development.

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David I. Anderson and Alicia Rodriguez

Longitudinal records were examined for 272 children who started formal swimming lessons at 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 years of age. The groups of children were compared on the number of lessons and number of months required to reach three levels of swimming proficiency and the ages at which these levels were reached. Significant differences were found in the ages at which each proficiency level was attained. The younger the age at which children started lessons, the younger they were when they attained Level 1 proficiency. In contrast, the ages at which Level 2 and Level 3 proficiency were attained were more similar, particularly for the younger starters. Significant differences were found for the number of lessons and number of months required to reach Level 1 proficiency and to progress from Level 1 to Level 2 proficiency. The younger the starting age the more lessons and months required to reach each proficiency level. The pattern of findings suggests that the optimum age to begin formal swimming lessons is between 5 and 7 years of age. The findings are discussed relative to the literature on readiness and sensitive periods for learning.

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David I. Anderson and Anthony M. Mayo

This paper examines the costs and benefits of early specialization in sport from a skill acquisition perspective. The focus is on whether early specialization in a single sport is the best way to facilitate the acquisition of skill in that sport. The paper is organized relative to the two major conceptual frameworks that have motivated much of the discussion about early specialization in sport: the theory of deliberate practice and the Developmental Model of Sport Participation. Our analysis reveals that while early specialization in sport is one way to reach elite status, it is not the only way. Considerable evidence shows that many elite athletes specialized in their sport late, following diversified experiences with other sports. These findings raise a number of exciting questions about the long-term development of skill in sport.

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Moeko Ueno, Ichiro Uchiyama, Joseph J. Campos, David I. Anderson, Minxuan He and Audun Dahl

Infants show a dramatic shift in postural and emotional responsiveness to peripheral lamellar optic flow (PLOF) following crawling onset. The present study used a novel virtual moving room to assess postural compensation of the shoulders backward and upward and heart rate acceleration to PLOF specifying a sudden horizontal forward translation and a sudden descent down a steep slope in an infinitely long virtual tunnel. No motion control conditions were also included. Participants were 53 8.5-month-old infants: 25 prelocomotors and 28 hands-and-knees crawlers. The primary findings were that crawling infants showed directionally appropriate postural compensation in the two tunnel motion conditions, whereas prelocomotor infants were minimally responsive in both conditions. Similarly, prelocomotor infants showed nonsignificant changes in heart rate acceleration in the tunnel motion conditions, whereas crawling infants showed significantly higher heart rate acceleration in the descent condition than in the descent control condition, and in the descent condition than in the horizontal translation condition. These findings highlight the important role played by locomotor experience in the development of the visual control of posture and in emotional reactions to a sudden optically specified drop. The virtual moving room is a promising paradigm for exploring the development of perception–action coupling.

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David I. Anderson, Audun Dahl, Joseph J. Campos, Kiren Chand, Minxuan He and Ichiro Uchiyama

This report describes a novel test of the prediction that locomotion-induced changes in an infant’s functional utilization of peripheral lamellar optic flow (PLOF) for postural stability contributes to avoidance of the deep side of a visual cliff. To test the prediction, a corridor, with either low-textured or high-textured walls, was constructed to run the length of a visual cliff. The infants, 9.5-month-olds with varying amounts of hands-and-knees crawling experience, were randomly assigned to the low-texture (n = 30) or the high-texture condition (n = 32). Consistent with predictions, the findings revealed significant interactions between crawling experience and texture condition for the probability of crossing and the latency to venture onto the deep side of the cliff. Most notably, more experienced crawlers, but not less experienced crawlers, were significantly more likely to cross the visual cliff to the parents and ventured onto the cliff faster in the high-texture condition than in the low-texture condition. The availability of PLOF thus had an effect on infants’ crossing behavior on the visual cliff. We interpret these findings as evidence for a three-step process in which locomotor-induced changes in visual proprioception play a central role in the development of wariness of heights.