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The Relationship between Social and Motor Cognition in Primary School Age-Children

Kenny, L., Hill, E. L. ORCID: 0000-0003-3130-1271 & Hamilton, A. F. (2016). The Relationship between Social and Motor Cognition in Primary School Age-Children. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 228. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00228


There is increased interest in the relationship between motor skills and social skills in child development, with evidence that the mechanisms underlying these behaviors may be linked. We took a cognitive approach to this problem, and examined the relationship between four specific cognitive domains: theory of mind, motor skill, action understanding, and imitation. Neuroimaging and adult research suggest that action understanding and imitation are closely linked, but are somewhat independent of theory of mind and low-level motor control. Here, we test if a similar pattern is shown in child development. A sample of 101 primary school aged children with a wide ability range completed tests of IQ (Raven’s matrices), theory of mind, motor skill, action understanding, and imitation. Parents reported on their children’s social, motor and attention performance as well as developmental concerns. The results showed that action understanding and imitation correlate, with the latter having a weak link to motor control. Theory of mind was independent of the other tasks. These results imply that independent cognitive processes for social interaction (theory of mind) and for motor control can be identified in primary school age children, and challenge approaches that link all these domains together.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2016 Kenny, Hill and Hamilton. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: social cognition, motor skill, theory of mind, imitation, action understanding
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
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