On possibilities for action: The past, present and future of affordance research

Annemiek D. Barsingerhorn, Frank T.J.M. Zaal, Joanne Smith, Gert Jan Pepping*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

We give a historical overview of the development of almost 50 years of empirical research on the affordances in the past and in the present. Defined by James Jerome Gibson in the early development of the Ecological Approach to Perception and Action as the prime of perception and action, affordances have become a rich topic of investigation in the fields of human movement science and experimental psychology. The methodological origins of the empirical research performed on affordances can be traced back to the mid 1980's and the works of Warren (1984, 1988) and Michaels (1988). Most of the research in Ecological Psychology performed since has focused on the actualization of discretely defined actions, the perception of action boundaries, the calculation of pi-numbers, and the measurement of response times. The research efforts have resulted in advancements in the understanding of the dynamic nature of affordances, affordances in a social context and the importance of calibration for perception of affordances. Although affordances are seen as an instrumental part of the control of action most studies investigating affordances do not pay attention to the control of the action. We conclude that affordances are still primarily treated as a utility to select behaviour, which creates a conceptual barrier that hinders deeper understanding of affordances. A focus on action-boundaries has largely prevented advancement in other aspects of affordances, most notably an integrative understanding of the role of affordances in the control of action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-69
Number of pages16
JournalAvant
Volume3
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2012

Keywords

  • Action boundary
  • Action selection
  • Ecological psychology
  • Experimental psychology
  • Perception-action

Cite this