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Infant motor skill acquisition is so rapid and dramatic that a century of researchers – and eons of parents – have marveled at the scope of developmental change. At birth, infants are essentially prisoners of gravity, unable to lift their heads from their caregivers’ chest. But by 2 years of age, infants can “pluck a pellet with fine pincer prehension” (Gesell, 1929, p. 132) and race on two feet across the living room floor. This remarkable transformation in action characterizes the development of basic motor skills – posture for supporting the body against gravitational and inertial forces, manual skills for interacting with objects and surfaces, and locomotion for moving the body through the environment (Adolph & Berger, 2015).
In this commentary on Osiurak and Reynaud's target article, we argue that action is largely missing in their account of the ascendance of human technological culture. We propose that an action-based developmental account can help to bridge the cognitive-sociocultural divide in explanations of the discovery, production, and cultural transmission of human tool use.
Motor development – traditionally studied in WEIRD populations – falls victim to assumptions of universality similar to other domains described by Henrich et al. However, cross-cultural research illustrates the extraordinary diversity that is normal in motor skill acquisition. Indeed, motor development provides an important domain for evaluating cultural challenges to a general behavioral science.
Based on studies with infants, we expand on Stoffregen & Bardy's explanation of perceptual motor errors, given the global array. Information pick-up from the global array is not sufficient without adequate exploratory movements and learning to support perceptually guided activity.
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