22/02/2017 Medicine Psychology
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160806 SemanticScholar ID: 14229235 MAG: 2590661549

Sensorimotor control dynamics and cultural biases: learning to move in the right (or left) direction

Publication Summary

The nativist hypothesis suggests universal features of human behaviour can be explained by biologically determined cognitive substrates. This nativist account has been challenged recently by evolutionary models showing that the cultural transmission of knowledge can produce behavioural universals. Sensorimotor invariance is a canonical example of a behavioural universal, raising the issue of whether culture can influence not only which skills people acquire but also the development of the sensorimotor system. We tested this hypothesis by exploring whether culture influences the developing sensorimotor system in children. We took kinematic measures of motor control asymmetries in adults and children from differing cultures where writing follows opposite directions. British and Kuwaiti adults (n = 69) and first grade (5–6 year old) children (n = 140) completed novel rightward and leftward tracing tasks. The Kuwaitis were better when moving their arm leftward while the British showed the opposite bias. Bayesian analysis techniques showed that while children were worse than adults, they also showed asymmetries—with the asymmetry magnitude related to accuracy levels. Our findings support the idea that culture influences the sensorimotor system.

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Amanda Waterman

Prof. Amanda Waterman

University of Leeds - Professor of Cognitive Development

Avatar Image for Mark Mon-Williams

Prof. Mark Mon-Williams

University of Leeds - Chair in Cognitive Psychology

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