Virtual Reality

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 4–10 | Cite as

Affordances in the design of enactive systems

  • Thomas A. Stoffregen
  • Benoît G. Bardy
  • Bruno Mantel
Original Article


Enactive interfaces must incorporate intuitive activity that characterizes naturalistic perception. However, the manner in which information is presented is not more important than the contents: what information is presented. In this contribution, we address the contents of perception. We argue that people perceive affordances, that is, the possible actions that are available in any given situation. We further argue that enactive interfaces should be designed to optimize presentation of information about the possible actions that are available to a person using the enactive interface. The design of enactive interfaces might be guided by an extension of the theory of ecological interface design (Vicente in Hum Factors 44:62–78, 2002) to include multimodal information that is accessed through fast, intuitive exploratory movement. We review two empirical studies that illustrate our arguments. Careful analysis of affordances, together with our increasing understanding of the enactive perception of affordances, should influence the design of enactive interfaces.


Affordances Perception-action Multimodal perception Enactive perception 



Supported by Enactive Interfaces, a network of excellence (IST contract #002114) of the Commission of the European Community, the National Science Foundation (BCS-0236627), the University of Paris XI, The University of Montpellier 1, and the Institut Universitaire de France.


  1. Bingham GP, Schmidt RC, Rosenblum LD (1989) Hefting for maximum distance throw: a smart perceptual mechanism. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 15:507–528CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Chemero A (2003) An outline of a theory of affordances. Ecol Psychol 15:181–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Gibson JJ (1986) The ecological approach to visual perception. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah (original work published in 1979)Google Scholar
  4. Konczak J, Meeuwsen HJ, Cress ME (1992) Changing affordances in stair climbing: the perception of maximum climbability in young and older adults. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 18:691–697CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Mantel B, Bardy BG, Stoffregen TA (2005) Intermodal specification of egocentric distance in a target reaching task. In: Heft H, Marsh KL (eds) Studies in perception and action VIII. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, pp 173–176Google Scholar
  6. Mark LS, Balliet JA, Craver KD, Douglas SD, Fox T (1990) What an actor must do to perceive the affordance for sitting. Ecol Psychol 2:325–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Oudejans RRD, Michaels CF, Bakker FC, Dolne M (1996) The relevance of action in perceiving affordances: perception of catchableness of fly balls. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 22:683–703Google Scholar
  8. Sanders JT (1997) An ontology of affordances. Ecol Psychol 9:879–891CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  9. Stoffregen TA (2003a) Affordances are enough: reply to Chemero et al. (2003). Ecol Psychol 15:29–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Stoffregen TA (2003b) Affordances as properties of the animal–environment system. Ecol Psychol 15:115–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Stoffregen TA, Bardy BG (2001) On specification and the senses. Behav Brain Sci 24:195–261CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Stoffregen TA, Gorday K, Sheng YY, Flynn SB (1999) Perceiving affordances for another person’s actions. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 25:120–136CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Stoffregen TA, Yang CM, Bardy BG (2005) Affordance judgments and nonlocomotor body movement. Ecol Psychol 17:75–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Thelen E, Smith LB (1994) A dynamic systems approach to the development of cognition and action. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Turvey MT (1992) Affordances and prospective control: an outline of the ontology. Ecol Psychol 4:173–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Varela FJ, Thompson E, Rosch E (1991) The embodied mind. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  17. Vicente KJ (2002) Ecological interface design: progress and challenges. Hum Factors 44:62–78CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Warren W (1984) Perceiving affordances: visual guidance of stair climbing. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 10:683–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Yonas A, Hartman B (1993) Perceiving the affordance of contact in four- and five-month old infants. Child Dev 64:298–308PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas A. Stoffregen
    • 1
  • Benoît G. Bardy
    • 2
  • Bruno Mantel
    • 2
  1. 1.School of KinesiologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Sport and Movement SciencesUniversité Montpellier IMontpellierFrance

Personalised recommendations