More ado about affordances

Winkletter  •  24 Jan 2023   •    

Ever since I read about the perception of affordances as an explanation for motivation, I’ve been trying to notice if this meshes with my experience.

Once a person perceives an affordance, like the handle of a teapot, they should feel a compulsion to act on that affordance. An affordance leads to an automatic motor initiation. If someone doesn’t act on the affordance, it’s because some other overt or covert process is dampening the effect.

So, there are two answers to answer the question, why don’t I wash my dishes?

  1. I didn’t perceive an affordance that my dirty dishes were washable.
  2. I am overtly or covertly suppressing the urge to wash dishes.

I can think of five things that will trigger the perception of an affordance.

  • Emotional affect: For example, I feel hungry or bored, so I look for something to eat. The focus of the affordance is my stomach which is fill-up-able.
  • Environmental cues: I see a cereal box and decide to eat, acting on the affordance of the box as pourable.
  • Contextual cues: For example, the context is morning which cues me to start looking for food to eat. My environment is the thing I’m acting upon as something I can search to find food.
  • Open loops: An ongoing project I am trying to accomplish, like a decision to eat better. For this I want a specific affordance in mind, like eat yogurt with some nuts, or roast some vegetables with veggie sausage.
  • Inductive reasoning: I make a conscious decision to do something. I’m lost in the woods and have nothing to eat, so I decide to try fishing with a sharpened stick.

And I can think of some reasons why I might not act on an affordance after perceiving it.

  • Timing: I want to act on the affordance later. I decide to skip breakfast and eat a larger lunch.
  • Boundaries: I don’t think it’s my place to act. I’m a guest at a bed and breakfast and I’m waiting for someone to make pancakes.
  • Priority: Something more important is happening. The fire alarm is activated so I have to leave my breakfast burrito in the cafeteria.
  • Resources: I don’t feel capable of doing the task. I don’t have the ingredients for or a recipe for my choice of breakfast.
  • Conservation: Someone else will do it if I don’t, so I’ll slack off and save the energy.


Perhaps there is also an aversion effect. I don’t enjoy washing dishes, but I really despise when dishes pile up in the sink. Also, there’s such a thing as veggie sausage??

therealbrandonwilson  •  25 Jan 2023, 2:16 am

@therealbrandonwilson Veggie sausage is the preferred name for “spices mixed into an edible non-meat substrate.” It’s more convincing than veggie bacon.

Winkletter  •  25 Jan 2023, 7:55 pm

Both of them sound 🤮

therealbrandonwilson  •  25 Jan 2023, 8:27 pm

Discover more

Sourced from other writers across Lifelog

Ooops we couldn't find any related post...