Affordances and Events

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Affordance is a fundamental concept in the ecological approach to perception and action, but it is not yet fully developed. In this article, I attempt to further the development of the concept by contrasting it with the concept of events. My specific purpose is to raise for further discussion the following question: Can a theory that predicts the perception of affordances also predict the perception of events? I argue that affordances and events are not identical and that they differ qualitatively. I also discuss what I call mutuality relations between the animal and its environment, which have inspired much research on perception-action couplings (e.g., the perception and control of interceptive action, or the guidance of locomotion). There has been little direct discussion of relations between perception-action coupling and affordances. I suggest that mutuality relations are not affordances and that they may be a category of events. As an example of this argument, I reinterpret common analyses of time-to-contact in terms of affordances for interceptive action. I argue that the utility of affordance perception is clear but that it is uncertain how an ecological theory could predict the perception of events. I conclude with a brief discussion of some additional issues that remain to be resolved in the concept of affordances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am deeply grateful to the UMR Perception et Mouvement and the University of the Mediterranean for hosting me during my sabbatical, which made the writing of this article possible. Support was also provided by the National Science Foundation (Grants SBR–9601351 and INT–9603315).


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