Perceiving nested affordances for another person’s actions

Jeffrey B. Wagman, Thomas A. Stoffregen, Jiuyang Bai, Daniel S. Schloesser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Affordances are available behaviors that emerge out of relations between properties of animals and properties of their environment. Affordances are nested within one another. One way to conceptualize this nesting is through a mean-ends hierarchy. Previous research has shown that perceivers are sensitive to hierarchical means-ends relationships when perceiving affordances for their own actions. Affordances are also nested in a social context. We investigated perception of hierarchical mean-ends nesting of affordances for another person’s actions. We asked participants to judge the maximum reaching height of another person (the "actor"). Judgments of the actor’s maximum reaching height reflected manipulated constraints on the reaching task, suggesting that participants were sensitive (prospectively) to hierarchical relations between lower order affordances and higher order affordances. In addition, the results revealed that judgments scaled to the reaching ability of the actor and not that of the perceiver. We argue that perceivers were sensitive to hierarchical means-ends nesting of affordances for another person across two-levels of this hierarchy, and that perceivers’ judgments were based upon perceptual information about the actor’s action capabilities, rather than being based upon simulation of perceivers’ own abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-799
Number of pages10
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Experimental Psychology Society 2017.


  • Affordances
  • Perception-Action


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