Infant walking experience is related to the development of selective attention

Hanna Mulder, Ora Oudgenoeg-Paz, Josje Verhagen, Ineke J M van der Ham, Stefan Van der Stigchel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Previous studies have shown that the way in which infants perceive and explore the world changes as they transition from crawling to walking. Infant walking onset generally precedes advances in cognitive development such as accelerated language growth. However, the underlying mechanism explaining this association between walking experience and cognition is largely unknown. Selective attention is a key factor underlying learning across multiple domains. We propose that the altered visual input that infants obtain as they transition to walking relates to selective attention development and that advances in selective attention may potentially explain previously reported advances in other cognitive domains. As a first step in testing this hypothesis, we investigated how walking experience relates to selective attention. In Study 1, performance of 14-month-old crawlers, novice walkers, and expert walkers was compared on a visual search eye-tracking task (N = 47), including feature and conjunction (effortful) items. Walkers outperformed crawlers on the task in general, and effortful search was enhanced in expert walkers as compared with novice walkers, after controlling for crawling onset and general developmental differences occurring before walking onset. In Study 2, earlier walking onset was related to better visual search performance in 2-year-olds (N = 913). The association appeared to be due to the difference between the 10% latest walkers and the early/average walkers. Taken together, the results of these studies show that walking experience relates to advances in selective attention. This association shows a specific timing in development; it is mainly seen relatively close to the age of walking onset.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105425
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date8 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Self-locomotion
  • Infancy
  • Attention
  • Walking
  • Visual search
  • Eye tracking


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