Meyer, M., Bekkering, H., Haartsen, R., Stapel, J.C., & Hunnius, S. (2015). The role of action prediction and inhibitory control for joint action coordination in toddlers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 139, 203–220.
Abstract. From early in life, young children eagerly engage in social interactions. Yet, they still have difficulties performing well-coordinated joint actions with others. The question arises which processes underlie these difficulties. Adult literature suggests that two processes are important for smooth joint action coordination: action prediction and inhibitory control. The aim of the present study was to disentangle the potential role of these processes in the early development of joint action coordination. Using a simple turn-taking game, we assessed 2½-year-old toddlers’ joint action coordination, focusing on timing variability and turn-taking accuracy. In two additional tasks, we examined their action prediction capabilities, with an eye-tracking paradigm and their inhibitory control capabilities with a classic executive functioning task (gift delay task). We found that individual differences in action prediction and inhibitory action control were distinctly related to the two aspects of joint action coordination. Toddlers who showed more precision in their action predictions were less variable in their action timing during the joint play. Furthermore, toddlers who showed more inhibitory control in an individual context were more accurate in their turn-taking performance during the joint action. On the other hand, no relation between timing variability and inhibitory control or between turn-taking accuracy and action prediction was found. The current results highlight the distinct role of action prediction and inhibitory action control for the quality of joint action coordination in toddlers. Underlying neurocognitive mechanisms and implications for processes involved in joint action coordination in general are discussed.