Do Children Have the Same Capacity to Perceive Affordances as Adults? An Investigation of Tool Selection and Use

in Journal of Motor Learning and Development
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  • 1 University of Waterloo
  • | 2 Wilfrid Laurier University

This study investigated whether 5- to 11-year-old children perceive affordances in the same way as adults (Mage = 22.93, SD = 2.16) when presented with a task and four tools (nail in a block of wood and a hammer, rock, wrench, and comb; bucket of sand and a shovel, wooden block, rake, and tweezers; and a screw in a block of wood and a screwdriver, knife, dime, and crayon). Participants were asked to select the best tool and act on an object until all four assigned tools had been selected. No explicit instructions were provided because we were interested in how task perception would influence tool selection and action. Results support the notion that the capacity to perceive affordances increases with age. Furthermore, differences in the way in which 5-year-olds acted on the screw in a block of wood demonstrated that the ability to detect some affordances takes longer to refine. Findings help to further the understanding of the development of perception-action coupling.

Sara M. Scharoun, David A. Gonzalez, and Eric A. Roy are with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Pamela J. Bryden and Michael E. Cinelli are with the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario.

Address author correspondence to Sara Scharoun at