Newborns’ early attuning to hand-to-mouth coordinated actions

Margaret Addabbo, Elisa Roberti, Lorenzo Colombo, Odoardo Picciolini, Chiara Turati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Already inside the womb, fetuses frequently bring their hands to the mouth, anticipating hand-to-mouth contact by opening the mouth. Here, we explored whether 2-day-old newborns discriminate between hand actions directed towards different targets of the face—that is, a thumb that reaches the mouth and a thumb that reaches the chin. Newborns looked longer towards the thumb-to-mouth compared to the thumb-to-chin action only in the presence, and not absence, of anticipatory mouth opening movements, preceding the thumb arrival. Overall, our results show that newborns are sensitive to hand-to-face coordinated actions, being capable to discriminate between body-related actions directed towards different targets of the face, but only when a salient visual cue that anticipates the target of the action is present. The role of newborns’ sensorimotor experience with hand-to-mouth gestures in driving this capacity is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13162
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • goal-directed actions
  • hand-to-mouth coordination
  • newborns
  • sensorimotor experience
  • visual preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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