The Perceiver as Performer
  • Eleanor Gibson
  • Nancy Rader


A mountain climber is ascending a high cliff. He searches for handholds, checks the adjustment of his rope, the position of the person above and below him, and looks for signs of ice that will make a foothold dangerous. He carefully avoids any patch of gravel. Meanwhile, the view around him may be breathtakingly beautiful, but we say that he is paying, for the moment at least, no “attention” to it. He has a task (self-set) at hand, and to perform it adaptively he must perceive the affordances for climbing in footholds, handholds, surface conditions, and the state of his companions. Otherwise, disaster awaits them. Optimal pickup of information of this sort requires experience and skill in detection of the affordances involved. The same degree and quality of selection of information would not be found in the same man performing a task like walking along a sidewalk. Walking along a sidewalk does not require careful inspection; such a task allows a search for information relevant to tasks other than locomotion. Indeed, sidewalks are built to make the job of walking easier, to put fewer demands on the system to search for information to locomote.


Human Infant Attentive Behavior Object Permanence Spelling Pattern Mountain Climber 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eleanor Gibson
    • 1
  • Nancy Rader
    • 2
  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.University of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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