The Role of Motor Experience in Understanding Action Function: The Case of the Precision Grasp


  • This research was supported by an NRSA postdoctoral fellowship (F32HD058445-01A2) to the first author, and an NICHD grant (1R03HD053616-01A1) to the second author. We would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting that the inverted-to-upright condition be added to the study. We are grateful to the members of the Early Childhood Cognition Lab for their assistance with data collection and coding for this study, and would also like to thank all of the families who volunteered to participate in the research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jeff Loucks, University of Washington, Department of Psychology, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195. Electronic mail may be sent to


Recent evidence suggests adults and infants selectively attend to features of action, such as how a hand contacts an object. The current research investigated whether this bias stems from infants’ processing of the functional consequences of grasps: understanding that different grasps afford different future actions. A habituation paradigm assessed 10-month-old infants’ (= 62) understanding of the functional consequences of precision and whole-hand grasps in others’ actions, and infants’ own precision grasping abilities were also assessed. The results indicate infants understood the functional consequences of another’s grasp only if they could perform precision grasps themselves. These results highlight a previously unknown aspect of early action understanding, and deepen our understanding of the relation between motor experience and cognition.