David Anderson

David Anderson

Phone: (415) 338-2244
Email: danders@sfsu.edu
Location: HSS 257

David Anderson is the Director of the Marian Wright Edelman Institute for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families at San Francisco State University. Formerly a Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology at SF State, David has been engaged in a wide range of service, teaching, and research activities. His research centers on understanding how motor skills are acquired, how to promote the development of motor skills, and how motor activity influences psychological functioning. He has authored and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, presentations, an activity manual, and a popular textbook, and has received significant funding for his research from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Education. David is an Active Fellow in the National Academy of Kinesiology and serves on several advisory and editorial boards. He is a passionate advocate for the importance of physical activity in optimal motor and psychological development and is committed to promoting efforts to improve early child care, education and health.

Website(s): Marian Wright Edelman Institute


  • B.Ed. University of Technology, Sydney: Physical Education
  • M.S.  California State University, Long Beach: Physical Education
  • Ph.D. Louisiana State University: Kinesiology

New Textbook

Motor Learning and Control Book Cover

Dr. Anderson and colleague Richard Magill have released the twelth edition of their textbook "Motor Learning and Control: Concepts and Applications". The textbook provides an introductory study of motor learning and control for students who aspire to become practitioners in exercise science, physical education, and other movement-oriented professions. The text opens with an introduction to motor skills and control, continues through attention, memory, and learning, and ends with a discussion of instruction, feedback, and practice methods. The text’s strong research base, clear presentation and practical applications help students build a solid foundation in motor skills and prepare them for further exploration on their own.

Motor Learning and Control: Concepts and Applications. Richard A. Magill, Ph.D and David I. Anderson, Ph.D. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2020.

Current Research Projects

Motor Activity and Psychological Development

My primary research focuses on the psychological revolution that occurs after infants start to crawl. Experience with independent locomotion is associated with dramatic changes in perception, perception-action coupling, spatial cognition, memory, and social and emotional functioning. Recent work in our laboratory has documented a spurt in receptive and productive language following the onset of walking. Our research program is devoted to discovering the range of psychological phenomena connected with the acquisition of new motor skills, to understanding how motor activity drives psychological development, and to addressing the implications that the link between motor activity and psychological development has for infants with disabilities that delay or impede the acquisition of motor competence. This program of research has many branches and is centered at the University of California, Berkeley, where I am Co-Director of the Infant Studies Center, housed within the Institute of Human Development, with Professor Joseph Campos.

Representative publications:

  • Campos, J. J., Anderson, D. I., Barbu-Roth, M., Hubbard, E. M., Hertenstein, M. J., & Witherington, D. (2000). Travel broadens the mind. Infancy, 1, 149-219.
  • Uchiyama, I., Anderson, D. I., Campos, J. J., Witherington, D. C., Frankel, C. I., Lejeune, L., & Barbu-Roth, M. A. (2008). Locomotor experience affects self and emotion. Developmental Psychology. 44, 1225-1231.
  • Campos, J. J., Anderson, D. I., & Telzrow, R. (2009).  Locomotor experience influences the spatial cognitive development of infants with spina bifida. Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie, 41, 181-188.
  • Anderson, D. I., Campos, J. J., Witherington, D. C., Dahl, A., Rivera, M., He, M., Uchiyama, I., Barbu-Roth, M. (2013). Locomotion and psychological development. Frontiers in Psychology, 4 (440), 1-17.
  • Dahl, A., Campos, J. J., Anderson, D. I., Uchiyama, I., Witherington, D. C., Ueno, M., Lejeune, L. & Barbu-Roth, M. (2013). The epigenesis of wariness of heights. Psychological Science, 24, 1361-1367.
  • Ueno, M., Uchiyama, I., Campos, J. J., Anderson, D. I., He, M., & Dahl, A. (2018). Crawling experience relates to postural and emotional reactions to optic flow in a virtual moving room. Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 6 (Suppl 1), S63-S75.
  • Anderson, D. I., Dahl, A., Campos, J., Chand, K., He, M., & Uchiyama, I. (2018). Availability of peripheral optic flow influences whether infants cross a visual cliff. Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 6 (Suppl 1), S76-S88.
  • Anderson, D. I., He, M., Gutierrez, P., Uchiyama, I., & Campos, J. (2019). Do balance demands induce shifts in visual proprioception in crawling infants? Frontiers in Psychology10, article 1388.
  • Burnay, C., Cordovil, R., Button, C., Croft, J. L., Schofield, M., Pereira, Anderson, D. I. (2020). The effect of specific locomotor experiences on infants’ avoidance behavior on real and water cliffs. Developmental Sciencehttps://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13047
  • Burnay, C., Cordovil, R., Button, C., Croft, J. L., & Anderson, D. I. (2021). Experienced crawlers avoid real and water drop-offs, even when they are walking. Infancy, 26(5), 770-779. https://doi.org/10.1111/infa.12419
  • Burnay, C., Button, C., Cordovil, R., Anderson, D. I., & Croft, J. L. (2021). Do infants avoid a traversable slope leading into deep water? Developmental Psychobiology, 63(6), e22169. https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.22169
  • Bloch-Gallego, E., & Anderson, D. I. (2022). The role of RhoGTPases in motor disorders associated with neurodevelopmental pathologies. Molecular Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-022-01702-8

Perceptual Control of Newborn Movement Patterns

This research project is based on a long-standing collaboration with Professor Marianne Barbu-Roth from the CNRS in France and the University of Paris, Descartes. Following our exciting discovery that air stepping can be facilitated by exposing newborns to a pattern of optic flow that moves beneath their feet (a virtual treadmill), the broader project is dedicated to uncovering the range of information sources that influence the control of early movement patterns. We are currently studying newborn stepping and crawling in response to optic flow, auditory stimuli, and olfactory stimuli and we are tracking how stepping and crawling are influenced by optic flow over the first months of life. Ultimately, we want to understand how the perceptual control of locomotion develops over the first year of life. Our work has implications for the early detection of infants at risk for developmental delay and for the design of interventions to facilitate motor and psychological development in infants at risk for developmental delay. An unexpected discovery in our recent studies is that infants at 2 and 3 months of age, and between 6 and 12 months of age who are prelocomotor, continue to step in the air when they have stopped stepping on a surface of support. This intriguing discovery challenges the widely-held assumption that the newborn stepping pattern disappears at around 2 months of age because the infant’s legs become too heavy to lift.

Representative publications:

  • Barbu-Roth, M. A., Anderson, D. I., Desprès, A., Provasi, J., Cabrol, D., & Campos, J. J. (2009). Neonatal stepping in relation to terrestrial optic flow. Child Development, 80, 8-14.
  • Teulier, C., Anderson, D. I., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2013). Treadmill training interventions for infants with physical disabilities. In R. C. Shepherd (Ed.). Cerebral palsy in infancy and early childhood: Targeted activity to optimize early growth and development (pp. 275-289). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Barbu-Roth, M., Anderson, D. I., Desprès, A., Streeter, R. J., Cabrol, D., Trujillo, M., Campos, J. J., Provasi, J. (2014). Air stepping in response to optic flows that move toward and away from the neonate. Developmental Psychobiology, 56(5), 1142-1149.
  • Siekerman, K., Barbu-Roth, M., Anderson, D. I., Donnelly, A., Goffinet, F., & Teulier, C. (2015). Treadmill stimulation improves newborn stepping. Developmental Psychobiology, 1-8: DOI 10.1002/dev.21270
  • Barbu-Roth, M. A., Anderson, D. I., Streeter, R., Combrouze, M., Park, J., Schultz, B., Campos, J. J., & Provasi, J. (2015). Why does infant stepping disappear and can it be stimulated by optic flow. Child Development, 86, 441-455.
  • Anderson, D. I., Kobayashi, Y., Hamel, K., Rivera, M., Campos, J. J., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2016). Effects of support surface and optic flow on step-like movements in pre-crawling and crawling infants. Infant Behavior and Development, 42, 104-110.
  • Forma, V., Anderson, D. I., Goffinet, F., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2018). Effect of optic flows on newborn crawling. Developmental Psychobiology60(5), 497-510.
  • Forma, V., Anderson, D. I., Provasi, J., Soyez, E., Martial, M., Huet, V., Granjon, L., Goffinet, F., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2019). What does prone skateboarding in the newborn tell us about the ontogeny of human locomotion? Child Development90(4), 1286-1302. 
  • Hym, C., Forma, V., Anderson, D. I., Provasi, J., Granjon, L., Huet, V., Carpe, E., Teulier, C., Durand, K., Schaal, B., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2020). Newborn crawling and rooting in response to maternal breast odor. Developmental Sciencehttps://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13047
  • Barbu-Roth, M., Siekerman, K., Anderson, D. I., Donnelly, A. E., Huet, V., Goffinet, F., & Teulier, C. (2021). Can optic flow further stimulate treadmill-elicited stepping in newborns? Frontiers in Psychology, 12:665306. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.665306
  • Hym, C., Dumuids, M-V., Anderson, D. I., Forma, V., Provasi, J., Brière-Dollat, C., Granjon, L., Gervain, J., Nazzi, T., Barbu-Roth, M. (2022). Newborns modulate their crawling in response to their native language but not another language. Developmental Science, e13248. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13248

Effects of the Alexander Technique on Gait and Activities of Daily Living

The Alexander Technique is an educational method used to address unconscious habits that interfere with efficient posture and movement. Grounded in the fundamental unity of mind and body, the technique is an exploration of our reactions to the myriad of internal and external stimuli that we encounter each day. An abundance of anecdotal evidence suggests that practicing the technique can lead to dramatic improvements in health, pain, the quality of movement, and psychological functioning. Experimental evidence is growing in support of these anecdotal reports. Our research has shown that experienced teachers of the Alexander Technique who are over the age of 60 walk differently than age-matched controls. The Alexander Technique teachers show superior control of dynamic stability during walking, decreased variability in certain gait parameters, and ranges of motion in the ankle and knee that are similar to those seen in young adults. Our current research is focused on how experienced Alexander Technique teachers perform activities of daily living compared to age-matched controls and on the kinetic features of their gait patterns. This research is conducted in the M.A.R.E.Y lab in collaboration with Dr. Kate Hamel and the Alexander Educational Center at Berkeley.

Representative publications:

  • O’Neill, M. M., Anderson, D. I., Allen, D., Ross, C., & Hamel, K. A. (2015). Effects of Alexander Technique experience on gait behavior in older adults. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 19, 473-481.
  • Hamel, K. A., Ross, C., Schultz, B., O’Neill, M. M., & Anderson, D. I. (2016). Older Alexander Technique practitioners walk differently than healthy age-matched controls. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 20, 751-760.
  • Anderson, D. I. (2020). What can complementary and alternative approaches to movement education teach Kinesiology. Kinesiology Review9(3), 181-189.

Sensitive Periods in the Development of Motor Skills

Many teachers, coaches, and movement scientists share a deep-rooted conviction that experiences can have a greater influence at some times during life than at others and that such times must be exploited for optimum skill development. These periods of heightened susceptibility to experience are often referred to as critical periods, sensitive periods, or windows of opportunity and they are closely connected to the readiness for learning principle. We have written several chapters that explore the relevance of sensitive periods and readiness to the development of skill in sport and have conducted one empirical study on whether there is an optimal age or developmental period for learning to swim. Interestingly, that study showed that the later children started formal swimming lessons the fewer lessons they required to reach basic and more advanced levels of swimming proficiency, with an optimal age for learning occurring somewhere between 5 and 7. We have advocated that much more research should be devoted to understanding how developmental factors constrain motor learning.

Representative publications:

  • Anderson, D. I. (2001). Do critical periods and readiness determine when to initiate sport skill learning? In F. L. Smoll and R. E. Smith (Eds.), Children and Youth in Sport: A Biopsychosocial Perspective (2nd ed., pp. 105-148).  Indianapolis: Brown and Benchmark.
  • Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., & Thouvarecq, R. (2012). Critical periods, sensitive periods, and readiness in motor skill learning. In N. J. Hodges and A. M. Williams (Eds.), Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, theory and practice (2nd ed.) (pp. 211-228). New York: Routledge.
  • Anderson, D. I., & Rodriguez, A. (2014). Is there an optimal age for learning to swim? Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 2, 80-89.
  • Anderson, D. I., & Mayo, A. M. (2015). A skill acquisition perspective on early specialization in sport. Kinesiology Review, 4, 230-247.
  • Anderson, D. I., & Mayo, A. M. (2017). Windows of optimal development. In J. Baker, S. Cobley, J. Schorer, & N. Wattie (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Talent Identification and Development in Sport (pp. 221-235). New York: Routledge

Learning to use an Upper-Extremity Prosthesis

In collaboration with Professor Marilyn Mitchell and the Neuromotor Control Laboratory, I am contributing to studies designed to understand how people with amputations learn to control a body-powered upper-extremity prosthesis. The studies are conducted using an upper-extremity prosthetic simulator that can be used by a person without an amputation. The simulator works in exactly the same way as a regular body-powered prosthesis. Our studies showing bilateral transfer of learning with the simulator suggest that the simulator might be used on the non-amputated side of the body by a person with a recent amputation as they await fitting of their prosthesis. We have also shown that the simulator can be used to understand a number of issues related to learning to control a prosthesis, including regulating grip force and scheduling practice to optimize learning and transfer. We have advocated for greater use of the prosthetic simulator in the Occupational Therapy curriculum to sensitize future therapists to the challenges faced by people with amputations as they learn to perform activities of daily living. A related project focuses on the Carter Cuff, a commercial device designed by Andrew Carter to help people with amputations or injuries/disabilities that compromise arm and hand functioning to perform resistance training exercises.

Representative publications:

  • Wallace, S. A., & Anderson, D. I., Hall, P., McGarry, T., & Fink, P., & Weeks, D. L. (2002). Weight discrimination using an upper extremity prosthesis. Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, 14, 127-133.
  • Weeks, D. L., Wallace, S. A., & Anderson, D. I. (2003). Training with an upper-limb prosthetic simulator to enhance transfer of skill across limbs. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 84, 437-443.
  • Weeks, D. L., Wallace, S. A., & Anderson, D. I. (2003). Using contextual interference to facilitate the learning of prosthetic control. Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, 3, 84-92.
  • Wallace, S. A., Anderson, D. I., & Trujillo, M. (2005). Upper extremity artificial limb control as an issue related to movement and mobility in daily living. Quest, 57, 124-137.
  • Mitchell, M., Gorelick, M, Anderson, D. I., & Atkins, D. J. (2014). Prosthetic education: Are Occupational Therapy students’ needs being met? Open Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 2, 5-11.
  • Trujillo, M., Anderson, D. I., & Mitchell, M. (2014). Grip force using an artificial limb in a congenital amputee. Open Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 2, 97-105.

Other Recent Publications

  • Anderson, D. I. (2021). An excellent adventure on some roads less travelled. Kinesiology Review, 10(2), 199-207. https://doi.org/10.1123/kr.2020-0057
  • Tse, A. C. Y., Anderson, D. I., Liu, V. H. L., & Tsui, S. S. L. (2021). Improving executive function of children with ASD through cycling skill acquisition. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 53(7), 1417-1424. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002609
  • Steel, K., Anderson, D. I., Smith, C., Ellem, E., Liu, K. P. Y., Morrison-Gurza, A., & Fairley, L. (2021). Potential value of a customized video self-modelling intervention for motor skill learning in individuals living with Cerebral Palsy: A case-study approach. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 128(4), 1464-1484. https://doi.org/10.1177/00315125211012810
  • Anderson, D. I., Lohse, K. R., Costa Videira Lopes, T., & Williams, A. M. (2021). Individual differences in motor skill learning: Past, present and future. Human Movement Science, 78, 102818. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2021.102818
  • Anderson, D. I., & van Emmerik, R. E. A. (2021). Perspectives on the academic discipline of Kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 10(3), 225-227. https://doi.org/10.1123/kr.2021-0029
  • Lauman, S. T., & Anderson, D. I. (2021). A neuromuscular integration approach to the rehabilitation of forward head and rounded shoulder posture: Systematic review of literature. Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 3(2), 61-72.
  • Anderson, D. I., & Williams, A. M. (2021). Editorial: Individual differences in motor skill learning. Human Movement Science, 81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2021.102904
  • Burnay, C., Anderson, D. I., Button, C., Cordovil, R., & Peden, A. E. (2022). Infant drowning prevention: Insights from a new ecological psychology approach. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19, 4567. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19084567


Diane Allen (SFSU), Joanne Arciuli (University of Sydney), Diane Atkins (Baylor College), Marianne Barbu-Roth (CNRS, University Paris, Descartes), Joseph Campos (UC Berkeley), Marie Combrouse (University Paris, Descartes), Audun Dahl (UC Santa Cruz), Alan Donnelly (University Limmerick), Francois Goffinet (University Paris, Descartes), Kate Hamel (SFSU), Minxuan He (UC Berkeley), David Lee (University of Edinburgh), Tony Mayo (SFSU), Marilyn Mitchell (SFSU), Juana Park (University Paris, Descartes), Joelle Provasi (EPHE, Paris), Monica Rivera (Fresno State University), Amanda Rymal (CSUSB), Ben Sidaway (Husson College), Kim Siekerman (University Limmerick), Kylie Steel (University Western Sydney), Diane Ste-Marie (University Ottawa), David Stevens (University of Adelaide), Caroline Teulier (University of Paris-Sud, Orsay), Ichiro Uchiyama (Kyoto University), Eric Walle (UC Merced)


  • Kin 250: Movement and Skill
  • Kin 486: Motor Learning
  • Kin 487: Motor Development
  • Kin 504: Sport and Exercise Psychology
  • Kin 636: Neuromotor Control
  • Kin 733: Motor Learning
  • Kin 795: Seminar in Kinesiology