David Walsh Headshot 2023

David Anderson

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

David Anderson serves as 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 engaged in a wide range of service, teaching, and research activities. His research centers on understanding how people of all ages acquire motor skills, 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, an Associate Editor for Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, a Section Editor for Human Movement Science, and serves on several advisory and editorial boards. He is also the former President of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA). David advocates passionately for the importance of physical activity in optimal motor and psychological development and has a deep commitment 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

McGraw Hill is about to release the 13th edition of Magill and Anderson’s 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, rehabilitation, and other movement-oriented professions. The text opens with an introduction to motor skills and motor control, continues with coverage of attention, memory, and learning, and ends with a discussion of instruction, feedback, and practice methods. The textbook’s strong research base, clear presentation, and practical applications help students build a solid foundational understanding of how to promote motor learning and control in a variety of personal and professional contexts.

Google Scholar profile: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=puYBUE4AAAAJ 


Research Themes

Scheduling Practice, Instruction, and Augmented Feedback to Promote Motor Skill Learning

I started my research career studying the effects of practice and feedback on motor skill performance and learning and have an enduring interest in this area of study to the current day. I have a particularly strong interest in variables that have reverse effects on performance and learning, i.e., variables that tend to enhance practice performance temporarily yet depress learning. More recently, I have developed a stronger interest in how individual differences influence the process of learning new skills, particularly with respect to differences in the attitude or mindset learners take into practice. This work has important implications for anyone with an interest in how to facilitate motor skill learning.

Representative publications:

Anderson, D. I., & Sidaway, B. (1994). Coordination changes associated with practice of a soccer kick. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 65, 93-99. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.1994.10607603

Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., & Sekiya, H. (1994). A reconsideration of the trials-delay of knowledge of results paradigm in motor skill learning. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 65, 286-290. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.1994.10607630

Sekiya, H., Magill, R. A., Sidaway, B., & Anderson, D. I. (1994). The contextual interference effect for skill variations from the same and different generalized motor programs. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 65, 330-338. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.1994.10607637

Sekiya, H., Magill, R. A., & Anderson, D. I. (1996).  The contextual interference effect in force parameter modifications of the same generalized motor program. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 67, 59-68. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.1996.10607926

Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., Sekiya, H. (2001). Motor learning as a function of KR schedule and characteristics of task-intrinsic feedback. Journal of Motor Behavior, 33, 59-66. https://doi.org/10.1080/00222890109601903

Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., Sekiya, H., & Ryan, G. (2005). Support for an explanation of the guidance effect in motor skill learning. Journal of Motor Behavior, 37, 231-238. https://doi.org/10.3200/JMBR.37.3.231-238

Stevens, D., Anderson, D. I., Williams, A. M., & O’Dwyer, N. (2012). Does self-efficacy mediate transfer of learning effects between easy and difficult tasks? Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 1122-1128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2012.03.014

Magill, R. A., & Anderson, D. I. (2012). The roles and uses of augmented feedback in motor skill acquisition. In N. J. Hodges and A. M. Williams (Eds.), Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory and Practice (2nd ed.) (pp. 3-21). New York: Routledge.

Anderson, D. I., & Rymal, A. M., & Ste-Marie, D. M. (2014). Modeling and feedback. In A. Papaioannou & D. Hackfort (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Sport and Exercise Psychology (pp. 272-288). New York: Routledge.

Steel, K., Mudie, K., Sandoval, R., Anderson, D. I., Dogramaci, S., Birznieks, I., & Rehmanian, M. (2017). Can video self-modeling improve affected limb reach and grasp ability in stroke patients? Journal of Motor Behavior, 50(2), 117-126. https://doi.org/10.1080/00222895.2017.1306480

Anderson, D. I., Magill, R. A., Mayo, A. M., & Steel, K. (2020). Enhancing motor skill acquisition with augmented feedback. In N. J. Hodges and A. M. Williams (Eds.), Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory and Practice (3rd Ed.). London: Taylor and Francis.

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., & Steel, K. A. (2022). It's not the type of practice that matters, it's the attitude: The impact of playful practice on motor skill learning. Brazilian Journal of Motor Behavior, 16(2), 179-193. https://doi.org/10.20338/bjmb.v16i2.278


Motor Activity and Psychological Development

I have spent much of my research career focused on the psychological revolution that occurs after infants start to crawl. After infants have acquired independent locomotion, they demonstrate dramatic changes in perception, perception-action coupling, spatial cognition, memory, and social and emotional functioning. A similar spurt in receptive and productive language and other psychological skills follows the onset of walking. Our research program seeks to uncover the range of psychological phenomena connected with the acquisition of new motor skills and to understand how motor activity drives psychological development. The link between motor activity and psychological development has important implications for infants with disabilities that delay or impede the acquisition of motor competence. I have had the privilege of working closely with Professor Joseph Campos at UC Berkeley on this exciting program of research.

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. DOI: 10.1207/S15327078IN0102_1
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. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013224

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. https://doi.org/10.1026/0049-8637.41.4.181

Anderson, D. I., Campos, J. J., Witherington, D. C., Dahl, A., Rivera, M., He, M., Uchiyama, I., Barbu-Roth, M. (2013). The role of locomotion and psychological development. Frontiers in Psychology, 4 (440), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00440

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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613476047

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. https://doi.org/10.1123/jmld.2016-0063

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. https://doi.org/10.1123/jmld.2016-0064

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 Psychology, 10:1388. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01388

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 Science. https://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

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

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

Tse, A. C. Y., Liu, V. H. L., Lee, P. H., Anderson, D. I., & Lakes, K. D. (2023). The relationships among executive functions, self-regulation, and physical exercise in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism. https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613231168944


Perceptual Control of Newborn Movement Patterns

This research project stems from 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 exposing newborns to a pattern of optic flow that moves beneath their feet (a virtual treadmill) encourages them to step in the air, the broader project seeks to uncover the range of information sources that influence the control of early movement patterns. Our current studies focus on whether newborns show responsiveness to optic flow as well as auditory and olfactory stimuli with hedonic value (e.g., the mother’s voice and the smell of her breast). Ultimately, we want to understand how the perceptual control of locomotion develops over the first year of life. Recently, we designed and patented a mini-skateboard (the Crawliskate) that facilitates crawling in newborns and young infants. We showed that early crawling training over the first two months of life facilitates later motor and psychological development. This work has important implications for the early detection of infants at risk for developmental delay in addition to the design of interventions to facilitate motor and psychological development.

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. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01241.x

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. https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.21174

Siekerman, K., Barbu-Roth, M., Anderson, D. I., Donnelly, A., Goffinet, F., & Teulier, C. (2015). Treadmill stimulation improves newborn stepping. Developmental Psychobiology, 57(2), 247-254. https://doi.org/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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12305

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2015.11.005

Forma, V., Anderson, D. I., Goffinet, F., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2018). Effect of optic flows on newborn crawling. Developmental Psychobiology, 60(5), 497-510. https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.21634

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 Development, 90(4), 1286-1302. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13251

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 Science, 24(3), e13061. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13061

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

Dumuids-Vernet, M-V., Provasi, J., Anderson, D. I., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2022). Effects of early motor interventions on gross motor and locomotor development for infants at-risk of motor delay: a systematic review. Frontiers in Pediatrics, 10: 877345. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2022.877345

Dumuids-Vernet, M-V., Forma, V., Provasi, J., Anderson, D. I., Hinnekens, E., Soyez, E., Strassel, M., Guéret, L., Hym, C., Huet, V., Granjon, L., Calamy, L., Dassieu, G., Boujenah, L., Dollat, C., Biran, V., & Barbu-Roth, M. (2023). Stimulating the motor development of very premature infants: effects of early crawling training on a mini-skateboard. Frontiers in Pediatrics. 11:1198016. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2023.1198016


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, movement, and learning. 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 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. A relatively large and rapidly expanding body of experimental evidence now supports these anecdotal reports. Our research has shown that experienced teachers of the Alexander Technique (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 similar to those seen in young adults. I conduct this research in the M.A.R.E.Y lab in collaboration with Dr. Kate Hamel and the Bay Area Alexander Technique (BAAT) coalition.

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2014.12.006

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2016.04.009

Anderson, D. I. (2020). What can complementary and alternative approaches to movement education teach Kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 9(3), 181-189. https://doi.org/10.1123/kr.2020-0027


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 practitioners should exploit such times for optimum skill development. Scientists typically refer to these periods of heightened susceptibility to experience as critical periods, sensitive periods, or windows of opportunity and they share a connection with 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 an optimal age or developmental period exists 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 researchers should devote much more research to understanding how developmental factors constrain motor learning. Such research would make a major contribution to our understanding of the learning process.

Representative publications:

Magill, R. A., & Anderson, D. I. (1996). Critical periods as optimal readiness periods for learning sport skills. In F. L. Smoll and R. E. Smith (Eds.), Children and Youth in Sport: A Biopsychosocial Perspective (pp. 57-72).  Indianapolis: Brown and Benchmark.

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(4), 80-89. https://doi.org/10.1123/jmld.2014-0049

Anderson, D. I., & Mayo, A. M. (2015). A skill acquisition perspective on early specialization in sport. Kinesiology Review, 4, 230-247. https://doi.org/10.1123/kr.2015-0026

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, who recently retired, and the Neuromotor Control Laboratory, I contributed to studies designed to understand how people with amputations learn to control a body-powered upper-extremity prosthesis. The studies used an upper-extremity prosthetic simulator that a person without an amputation can wear. 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 a person with a recent amputation might benefit from using the simulator on the non-amputated side of the body as they await fitting of their prosthesis. We have also shown how researchers can use the simulator 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. This work has important implications for clinical practice.

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. https://doi.org/10.1053/apmr.2003.50014

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. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2005.10491846

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. DOI:10.4236/ojtr.2014.21002

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. DOI:10.4236/ojtr.2014.23014



• 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