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6. Moving: Hacks 62–69 > 67. Objects Ask to Be Used

Objects Ask to Be Used

When we see objects, they automatically trigger the movements we’d make to use them.

How do we understand and act upon objects around us? We might perceive the shape and colors of a cup of coffee, recognize what it is, and then decide that the most appropriate movement would be to lift it by the handle toward our mouth. However, there seems to be something rather more direct and automatic going on. In the 1960s, James Gibson developed the idea of object affordances. Objects appear to be associated with (or afford) a particular action or actions, and the mere sight of such an object is sufficient to trigger that movement in our mind. There are obvious advantages to such a system: it could allow us to respond quickly and appropriately to objects around us, without having to go to the bother of consciously recognizing (or thinking about) them. In other words, there is a direct link between perceiving an object and acting upon it. I don’t just see my cup of coffee; it also demands to be picked up and drunk.


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