September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
Learning affordances through action: Evidence from visual search
Author Affiliations
  • Greg Huffman
    University of Toronto
  • Jay Pratt
    University of Toronto
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 236. doi:
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      Greg Huffman, Jay Pratt; Learning affordances through action: Evidence from visual search. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):236. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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It has long been thought that objects are processed according to affordances they offer. Much of the evidence for this conclusion, however, comes from studies that used images of tools that participants may or may not have previous experience interacting with. Moreover, many tools are spatially asymmetric, adding a further potential confound. In the current study, we eliminated these confounds by using simple geometric stimuli and having participants learn that certain color-shape combinations afforded successfully finishing a task whereas others did not. The learning trials began with a small circle (the 'agent') surrounded by two circles and two squares that were blue or yellow and were contained with a '+' shaped structure. The participant's task was to move the agent, using the arrow keys, past the shapes, out of the structure. Importantly, two of these color-shape combinations allowed the agent to pass (doors) while the other two stopped the agent (walls). To measure whether doors were preferentially processed after affordances were learned, the test trials had participants search for a 'T' among 'L's that were presented on the same color-shape combinations. Evidence for affordance processing would be found if responses times were shorter for targets appearing on doors than targets on walls. The data supported this hypothesis, indicating that not only do affordances guide object processing, but also that affordances can be learned and assigned to otherwise arbitrary stimuli. The response time benefit may reflect a search bias with the attentional system prioritizing the processing of previously action relevant stimuli.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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