- Paperback: 332 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (September 1, 1986)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0898599598
- ISBN-13: 978-0898599596
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #980,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception 1st Edition
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Gibson said that if what we perceived were the entities of physics and mathematics, meaning would have to be imposed on them. But if what we perceived are the entities of environment science, their meaning can be discovered. He has conceived "the theory of affordances". He has described the environment as the surfaces that separate substances from the medium in which the animals live. But he has also described what the environment affords animals, mentioning the terrain, shelters, water, fire, objects, tool, other animals, and human displays. The import question is how do we go from surfaces to affordance? A radical hypothesis implies that the values and meanings of things in the environment can be directly perceived, moreover, it would explain the sense in which values and meaning are external to the perceiver.
The advantage to the theory of perception to be derived from a study of this affordance is apparent at every step. We may in our perception-action coupling space conceive quadratic forms like those of the conics, follow Joachimsthal's equation, in connection with maximization and minimization problem in motor control, and observed that if we adopt the fertile method of investigation introduced by Joachimsthal, an equilibrium equation of locomotion and manipulation arose in connection with the determination of existence of quadratic function.
If you're considering this book then you already know this is classic visual perception literature. Not only will it inform you, it will put you to sleep at night when nothing else will.
Later in life, however, Gibson grew frustrated with the standard reductionist approach to visual perception. He felt that certain fundamental aspects of animal perception were being overlooked, and that "retina-centered" models of vision would never address them. Inspired by the German Gestalt psychologists, Gibson began to promote a theory of visual processing that stressed what he felt was essential to perception, leaving the details about physiology by the wayside. He framed visual perception, along with all other sensory modalities, as important only to allow animals to act upon and interact with their surroundings. Perception as information for action, rather than as a passive documentation of external events.
For the uninitiated, some of the ideas in this book are way outside of conventional conceptualizations of the world. Let him expound upon his ideas, however, and you'll soon be thinking about your own everyday phenomenological experiences from a fresh and exciting perspective. His writing style is careful and thorough, to the point of sometimes being redundant, but he is nonetheless lucid, accessible, and quite entertaining to read.
Another reviewer described this as being a work of Objectivism. Perhaps that argument could be made, but I don't think Gibson himself would care for such talk. This work is all about ecological validity, and "pure" objective truth has little value in the life of most animals (and only a handful of humans at that). Affordances are in the eye of the beholder, and so an "objective" pencil might be perceived as a writing tool for one animal, nest-making material for another, a stabbing weapon for another, and something for a fourth animal to ignore. But I digress...
If you are interested at all in the philosophy of agency, visual perception, cognitive psychology, ecological or comparative cognitive studies, definitely try this book. If you like it, and you have questions as to how ecologically tuned perception develops (a topic that this book does not cover), I also recommend his wife Eleanor Gibson's book, "An Ecological Approach to Perceptual Learning and Development." Also accessible, and yet incredibly insightful.