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Lauren McD's picture

'Learning' to Walk

I think the most surprising piece of information that we learned in class this week is the fact that babies don't learn to walk but instead have the innate ability to walk once a physical maturity level is reached. I can definitely understand where this comes from. Experiments restricting the usage of wings in baby birds still allowed the birds to fly at a typical age. It makes sense that after a certain period of time, walking or flying becomes possible. Instead of being interpeted as learning, this can be interpreted as a sort of 'muscle learning.' A baby has never used its legs before and must build up and practice using the proper muscles before being able to walk.

However, I would be more interested in an experiment in which the baby birds were completely isolated from other birds. Learning is mainly interpreting observational behavior or thinking. If a baby bird with its wings clamped wasn't able to observe other birds flying, would it still be able to fly? The topic discussed in class that babies do not 'learn' to walk suggests no, but this is difficult for me to understand. Isn't a baby more likely to walk at an earlier age because of observation of other humans? Surely this must play some role in the beginning stages of walking, supporting that a learning process is actually occuring. There have certainly been cases of previously isolated children that are not able to communicate verbally at all since language development has a critical stage at an early age. A baby cannot learn to talk without other humans talking around it, but is walking something completely different?

I think it's also difficult to NOT describe walking as a learning process because it develops over an extended period of time. An ability to walk once a level of physical maturity is reached seems like it would almost be instantaneous. I know these relations may not spring to other people's minds, but I immediately associate walking with learning because of the time span.

The idea of NOT 'learning' to walk is certainly a difficult one to get used to.


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