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Affordances

Definition

When you look around a room, what do you see? You may say that you see chairs, tables, flooring, bookshelves, and walls. And at one level, perhaps you do. According to James J. Gibson's ecological theory of perception, at another level you see possibilities for action. These possibilities for action are termed affordances.

Analysis

The mantra of this approach is, as Gibson noted in 1979, that “perception is for doing.” We perceive the world not to create an accurate internal representation of an external reality as an end in itself. Rather, our perceptual systems have been tuned, over the course of evolution, to pick up information that is useful—ultimately, from an evolutionary perspective, useful to tasks that, in ancestral environments, would have enhanced survival and reproduction. ...

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