What are the units that perception measures the world in? Firestone vs Proffitt

Perspectives in Psychological Science recently hosted a point-counterpoint between Chaz Firestone and Dennis Proffitt about whether Proffitt’s theory of action-scaled perception could possibly be true. Proffitt is inspired by Gibson’s ecological approach, and has run numerous studies showing that how we perceive the world changes as our ability to interact with the world changes.

These papers are not empirical; however, I reviewed the debate here in a HIBAR style because the argument is an important one for theories of embodied cognition. I am sympathetic to Proffitt’s broad approach, although not his specific implementation, and the key issue this debate reveals is that neither of the authors has the necessary theory of perceptual information required to put their analysis on a firm footing.

Firestone C. (2013). How “Paternalistic” Is Spatial Perception? Why Wearing a Heavy Backpack Doesn’t – and Couldn’t – Make Hills Look Steeper. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8 (4), 455-473.

Proffitt D.R. (2013). An Embodied Approach to Perception: By What Units Are Visual Perceptions Scaled? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8 (4), 474-483.




About Andrew D Wilson

I am a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Beckett University. My research is in perception, action and embodied cognition.
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