# Affordances SEE ALSO: [[Adaequatio (Adequateness)]], [[Requisite Variety]] ==This note is just a #seedling. More is coming to grow and connect it to the rest of the Field Guide.== Psychologist J.J. Gibson coined the term "affordances" to describe a complementary relationship between an animal and its environment. He suggested that the affordances offered by any environment will be relative to the nature and capacity of the animal within it. > "The *affordances* of the environment are what it *offers* the animal, what it *provides* or *furnishes*, either for good or ill. The verb *to afford* is found in the dictionary, the noun *affordance* is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment." (Gibston 1977) The *Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning* [defines the term](https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_369#:~:text=(n.),There%20is%20no%20middle%20ground.) more directly: > An *affordance* is an action possibility formed by the relationship between an agent and its environment (Gibson [1977](https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_369#ref-CR3_369 "Gibson, J. J. (1977). The theory of affordances. In R. Shaw & J. Bransford (Eds.), Perceiving, acting, and knowing (pp. 67–82). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum."), [1979](https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_369#ref-CR4_369 "Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.")). For any combination of agent or environment, any given affordance either exists or does not exist. There is no middle ground. As one example, consider a hardcover book on the ground. It has fixed physical qualities as an object. But the *affordances* of that object depend entirely upon the qualities and capacities of the animal encountering it. To a small animal, like a mouse, the book offers a raised, flat surface for sitting upon. To curious and hungry animal, like a goat, it offers something to chew on. To an animal with opposable thumbs, it offers something to pick up and hold, throw, or use as a tool. And to an animal with a learned understanding of language and the written word, the same book offers meaningful narrative and knowledge (and also something to throw). --- ## Sources - Gibson, J.J. "The Theory of Affordances." In *Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing: Toward an Ecological Psychology*, edited by R. Shaw and J. Bransford, 67–82. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1977. - Nye, B.D., Silverman, B.G. "Affordance." In: Seel, N.M. (eds) *Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning*. Springer, Boston, MA, 2012. ## Tags (click to view related pages) #frameworks #seedling