Claire F. Michaels

Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action

University of Connecticut

Can Affordances be Detected, rather than Computed?

Claire F. Michaels

The idea of computing affordances is anathema to the ecological approach to perception and action. Affordances, according to Gibson (who coined the term), are not properties that need to be computed as comparisons of world and body. Instead, they are properties of the environment specified by information (in the Gibsonian sense), often a product of action, that needs to be registered by smart devices. Such registration is best understood as resonance. An analogous principle, direct learning, holds for how information guides the process of change. Robotics and AI are in a position to exploit and elaborate these principles.


Claire Michaels received her PhD from the Univ. of Connecticut. She taught at Lake Forest College and Human Movement Science at VU University, Amsterdam, before returning to UConn where she is now Emerita. She was Assoc. Ed. of Ecological Psychology and JEP:HPP, and Director of the Program in Perception, Action, and Cognition at the NSF. She is a leading advocate of the Gibsonian (Ecological) approach to perception and action. Her book with C. Carello (1981), Direct Perception, remains a classic. Her 100+ theoretical and empirical papers covered interceptive action, affordances, interlimb coordination, perceptual and perceptual-motor learning, dynamic touch, and tool use.