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J. J. Gibson

J.J. Gibson (1904-1979) was an American psychologist, considered one of the most important 20th century psychologists in the field of visual perception. In his classic work The Perception of the Visual World (1950) he rejected the behaviorism then fashionable for a view based on his own experimental work, which pioneered the idea that animals 'sampled' information from the 'ambient' outside world. He also invented the word 'affordance': a visual phenomenon which facilitates action. This concept has been extremely influential in the field of design and ergonomics: see for example the work of Donald Norman who worked with Gibson, and has adapted many of his ideas for his own theories. Another scientist that expanded on Gibson's ideas is Danish professor and researcher Jens Rasmussen , who spent a very long career at Denmark's Riso National Laboratory developing many of Gibson's ideas.

In his later work (such as, for example, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (1979)), Gibson became more philosophical and criticised cognitivism in the same way he had attacked behaviorism before. Gibson argued strongly in favour of 'direct realism' (as pioneered by the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid), as opposed to cognivitist 'indirect realism'. He termed his new approach ecological psychology. He also rejected the information processing view of cognition. Gibson is increasingly influential on many contemporary movements in psychology, such as situated cognition.

Last updated: 02-18-2005 14:11:21