Sensitivity to changes in dynamic affordances for walking on land and at sea

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We investigated the perception of affordances for walking along a narrow path. We asked whether participants could perceive changes in affordances brought about by manipulation of properties of the body, or of the environment, without direct practice of the to-be-perceived affordance, and without external feedback about the accuracy of perception. In Experiment 1, participants made a series of 8 judgments of how far they could walk along a narrow path either, 1) without added weight, 2) while wearing a weighted vest, or 3) while wearing weights on their ankles. Before walking, mean judgments were lower when wearing weights than in the no-weight condition. In addition, in both weight conditions judgments changed across the series of 8 judgments, in the direction of greater accuracy. Control of the body in walking also can be influenced by motion of the ground surface, as commonly happens in vehicles. In Experiment 2, on a ship at sea, we evaluated the effects of walking with or without weight added to the body at the ankles. We again asked participants (experienced maritime crewmembers) to judge how far they could walk along a narrow path, with versus without ankle weights. As in Experiment 1, judgments made before walking mirrored the observed differences in walking performance. In addition, we again found evidence that judgment improved (without walking practice, or feedback) over the series of judgments. We conclude that participants were sensitive to (and spontaneously learned about) how affordances for walking were influenced by changes in the dynamics of body and the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0221974
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) received no specific funding for this work. Publication of this project was supported by an Illinois State University Outstanding Researcher Award to Jeffrey B. Wagman.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Walter et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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