This post is the first in a two part series, wherein I consider the notion of “affordances”, that first appeared in the work of the ecological psychologist J.J. Gibson (1966), and ask whether or not this concept can be applied to social perception, or more particularly, to the perception of faces.
In the first post I will outline a positive account of this position as it is offered by those who champion it. However, in the second post - available here next week - I will present some of the difficulties with this position.
The ecological approach to the question of face perception is offered as an alternative to the more traditional cognitivist approaches. Such approaches tend to be quite limited in the questions they ask, mostly asking what are the mechanisms within our brains that organise the perception of someone’s face, and how do they operate. Moreover, the attributes of face perception traditional approaches are concerned with are also rather limited, prefering to focus only on the perception of identity, emotion and directional attention.