Planning my actions to accommodate yours: Joint action development during early childhood

Marlene Meyer, Robrecht P.R.D. van der Wel, Sabine Hunnius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The planning and adjusting of one’s actions in relation to an action partner is fundamental to smooth joint action. During their first years of life, children gradually become more engaged in joint actions. Here, we investigated whether and at what age children take their partner into account in their action plans to accommodate the other’s actions. We focused on children’s proactive planning (without prior experience) and flexible adjustment of action plans over time. In a behavioural study, we tested 96 children from four age groups (2½, 3, 3½ and 5 years) in a joint cup-stacking task. Children passed cups to their partner who had only one hand available (alternating over time) to build a tower. Children’s response choiceswere assessed (i.e. passing the cup on the free or occupied side to their partner). The study yielded two major findings. At all ages, children proactively planned their actions in a way that accommodated their partner’s actions. However, only by 3½ years did children start to flexibly integrate their partner into their action plans. Even at age 5, children only showed minimal adjustments to their action partner. Candidate processes underlying these developmental changes (e.g. inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, perspective taking) are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1693
StatePublished - May 5 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


  • Action planning
  • Development
  • Early childhood
  • Joint action


Dive into the research topics of 'Planning my actions to accommodate yours: Joint action development during early childhood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this