Talk the walk: Does socio-cognitive resource reallocation facilitate the development of walking?

Ronny Geva, Edna Orr

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Walking is of interest to psychology, robotics, zoology, neuroscience and medicine. Human's ability to walk on two feet is considered to be one of the defining characteristics of hominoid evolution. Evolutionary science propses that it emerged in response to limited environmental resources; yet the processes supporting its emergence are not fully understood. Developmental psychology research suggests that walking elicits cognitive advancements. We postulate that the relationship between cognitive development and walking is a bi-directional one; and further suggest that the initiation of novel capacities, such as walking, is related to internal socio-cognitive resource reallocation. We shed light on these notions by exploring infants' cognitive and socio-communicative outputs prospectively from 6-18 months of age. Structured bi/tri weekly evaluations of symbolic and verbal development were employed in an urban cohort (N = 9) for 12 months, during the transition from crawling to walking. Results show links between preemptive cognitive changes in socio-communicative output, symbolic-cognitive tool-use processes, and the age of emergence of walking. Plots of use rates of lower symbolic play levels before and after emergence of new skills illustrate reductions in use of previously attained key behaviors prior to emergence of higher symbolic play, language and walking. Further, individual differences in age of walking initiation were strongly related to the degree of reductions in complexity of object-use (r = .832, p < .005), along with increases, counter to the general reduction trend, in skills that serve recruitment of external resources [socio-communication bids before speech (r = -.696, p < .01), and speech bids before walking; r = .729, p < .01)]. Integration of these proactive changes using a computational approach yielded an even stronger link, underscoring internal resource reallocation as a facilitator of walking initiation (r = .901, p<0.001). These preliminary data suggest that representational capacities, symbolic object use, language and social developments, form an integrated adaptable composite, which possibly enables proactive internal resource reallocation, designed to support the emergence of new developmental milestones, such as walking.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0156351
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Geva, Orr. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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