Since road-crossing can act as a model system for dynamic affordance perception, past research with child and older pedestrians can shed light on how these components of action decision-making change across the lifespan. For example, despite the fact that both the speed and the distance of a car affect one’s ability to safely navigate through inter-vehicle gaps, pedestrians aged 5–12 years seem to rely more on vehicle distance than speed during gap selection (Connelly, Conaglen, Parsonson, & Isler, 1998). Furthermore, after selecting what action to perform, children have been shown to delay their crossing longer than adults for similar sized gaps, increasing the risk of injury when a gap is eventually accepted (Plumert, Kearney, & Cremer, 2004
; Schwebel, Davis, & O’Neal, 2012
). In an attempt to understand how the linking of action selection and action initiation changes throughout development, O’Neal et al. (2018
) compared children aged 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 years old to adults in their ability to select an inter-vehicle gap from a single lane of continuous traffic and tightly time their entry into the roadway. The authors noted that both gap selection and timing improved steadily with development, reaching adult-like levels by the age 14. Interestingly, 12-year-olds appeared to compensate for their poorer timing of entry by selecting more conservative gaps than those of 6-, 8-, 10-, 14-year-olds and adults suggesting an improved calibration to their still developing action capabilities. Finally, recent research has studied the ability to coordinate self and object movement, independent of movement initiation and gap selection (Chihak, Grechkin, Kearney, Cremer, & Plumert, 2014
; Chihak et al., 2010
). For instance, Chihak et al. (2010
) investigated how well 10- and 12-year-old children (and adults) adjust their motions to intercept (without stopping) a moving gap between two red blocks in a bicycling simulator. Block arrival times were manipulated such that participants needed to speed up or slow down to intercept the gap. The children in this study exhibited significantly more variability in their approach to the intersection and in the amount of time they had to spare. Also, as in previous road-crossing studies, the authors found the younger age groups timed their entry relative to the lead block in the gap less tightly than adults.
While this research on component skills has yielded valuable information, the picture regarding the development of children’s action decision-making is far from complete. Cisek (2007
) proposed that during overt performance of movements the processes of action selection and action specification operate simultaneously and continuously and therefore should be regarded as one and the same dynamic process. As a result, more research that investigates how the three different components of action decision-making are linked (particularly how action control leads on from selection and initiation) during development is of paramount importance.