Adaptive perception of changes in affordances for walking on a ship at sea

Hannah J. Walter, Ruixuan Li, Jeffrey B. Wagman, Thomas Stoffregen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Ocean waves cause oscillatory motion of ships. Oscillatory ship motion typically is greater in roll (i.e., the ship rolling from side to side) than in pitch (i.e., tipping from front to back). Affordances for walking on a ship at sea should be differentially influenced by ship motion in roll and pitch. When roll exceeds pitch, the maximum walkable distance within a defined path should be greater when walking along the ship's short, or athwart axis than when walking along its long, or fore-aft axis. When pitch exceeds roll, this relation should be reversed. We asked whether such changes in ship motion would be reflected in judgments of direction-specific affordances for walking. Participants (experienced maritime crewmembers) judged how far they could walk along a narrow path on the ship deck. On different days, sailing conditions were such that the relative magnitude of pitch and roll was reversed. Judgments of direction-specific affordances for walking mirrored these changes in ship motion. The accuracy of judgments was consistent across directions, and across changes in ship motion. We conclude that experienced maritime crewmembers were sensitive to dynamic variations in affordances for walking that were, themselves, a function of dynamic properties of the animal-environment system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-37
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Movement Science
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Adaptation
  • Affordance
  • Gait
  • Human performance
  • Perception

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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