Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Developmental Science






Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research / School of Medical and Health Sciences




Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia


This is an author's accepted manuscript of: Burnay, C., Cordovil, R., Button, C., Croft, J. L., Schofield, M., Pereira, J., & Anderson, D. I. (2021). The effect of specific locomotor experiences on infants’ avoidance behaviour on real and water cliffs. Developmental Science, 24(3), article e13047.


© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Infants’ avoidance of drop-offs has been described as an affordance learning that is not transferable between different locomotor postures. In addition, there is evidence that infants perceive and act similarly around real and water cliffs. This cross-sectional study investigated the effects of specific locomotor experiences on infants’ avoidance behaviour using the Real Cliff/Water Cliff paradigm. The experiments included 102 infants, 58 crawling, but pre-walking, infants (Mage = 11.57 months, SD = 1.65) with crawling experience ranging between 0.03 and 7.4 months (M = 2.16, SD = 1.71) and 44 walking infants (Mage = 14.82 months, SD = 1.99), with walking experience ranging between 0.13 and 5.2 months (M = 1.86, SD = 1.28). The association between crawling experience and crawlers’ avoidance of the real and water cliffs was confirmed. Importantly, crawling and total self-produced locomotor experience, and not walking experience, were associated with walkers’ avoidance behaviour on both cliffs. These results suggest that some degree of perceptual learning acquired through crawling experience was developmentally transferred to the walking posture. A longer duration of crawling experience facilitates a more rapid recalibration to the new walking capability. In addition, there was no difference in infants’ avoidance of falling on the real and the water cliff. However, infants explored the water cliff more than the real cliff, revealing more enticement to examine bodies of water than for drop-offs.