Classic Literature 1


In this series, I am going to write short summaries on several classic literatures related to robot learning or some robotics research in general. These literatures are not necessarily related to robotics, but they are connected to robotics and embodied AI where we can get insights from.

As a start, I am going to mention The Theory of Affordances, which is origin of the concept ‘Affordances’.

The Theory of Affordances

J. J. Gibson, 1977

This chapter is the original writing that proposed affordance. Affordance is a concept that is directly related to visual perception, and it is, according to the author, a concept that exists in a single, unified environment with lots of observers and limitless possibilities. It is claimed to be different from the concept of values, which philosphers have been debating about whether it is in the world of material or in the world of mind. The author used an analogy of niches of the environment to illustrate the idea of affordance. The existence of affordance is real, and it does not depend on the observer.

Aside from illustrating the idea of affordance, the author also explained the origin of affordance, and compared this concept against the Gestalt psychologists. Basically Gestalt psychologists argued the value of a thing depends and changes according to the need of the observer, the ego. But Gibson argues that affordance is something that comes directly from the perception.