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In this paper we examine whether a common perceptual parameter is available for guiding old adults, young adults and children in climbing the highest stair mountable in a bipedal fashion. Previous works have shown that the ratio between the height of the stair and the hip height was the body-scaled invariance adopted as information for selecting the highest stair by young adults [Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 10 (1984) 683-703] but not by older adults [Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 3 (1992) 691-697]. Indeed, for older adults additional bio-mechanical parameters needed to be added to the model due to their decrease in leg strength and flexibility.Up to now, no perceptual invariant has been identified yet for determining the relevant information used for guiding the stair climbing action for normal healthy people. We propose a new parameter as the angle defined by the ratio between the height of the stair and the distance taken from the feet to the top edge of the stair before the initiation of the movement. We show that this angle is the same for children, young adults and older adults despite the different kinematics of the motion, the anthropometrics and the skill ability exhibit by the participants. In summary we show that even when the climbability judgments, based on the simple ratio leg length-stair height, are influenced by differences in age, participants use a common perceptual variable when they are coordinating their stair climbing action.


Journal article


Hum Mov Sci

Publication Date





111 - 124


Adult, Aged, Aging, Anthropometry, Biomechanical Phenomena, Body Height, Child, Preschool, Distance Perception, Female, Humans, Linear Models, Male, Mathematical Computing, Middle Aged, Orientation, Physical Exertion, Psychomotor Performance, Reference Values, Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted