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Jeffrey Wagman
Jeffrey Wagman
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The Perception-Action Lab

I am the Director of the Perception-Action Lab where we investigate how the perceptual systems enable the performance of everyday (and not so everyday) behaviors. Our approach to these problems is firmly rooted in the theoretical foundation of ecological psychology, initially developed by James Gibson. In this approach, perception and action are treated as continuous processes that put a perceiver into direct epistemic contact with (i.e., in direct awareness of) the environment.  lab logo.jpg

Perception of Affordances​

From the  perspective of ecological psychology, the purpose of perception is for the control of everyday behaviors. To be useful in this capacity, a person must be able to perceive what behaviors are or are not possible to perform. Such possibilities for behavior depend on the  fit between a person's action capabilities and features of the environment and are known as affordances. We are interested in the factors that influence perception of affordances. In the photo in the upper right, the person to the right is attempting to perceive whether he could walk across the lab, step on the stepsrool, and reach the small suspended object. In the photo on the lower right, a dog chooses whether to reach for a treat with its head only or by rearing.



Dynamic Touch and Tool Use

People can perceive a wide variety of functional and geometric properties of hefted or wielded objects even if they are unable to see those objects. We are interested in what factors influence perception by touch, how people choose to grasp objects, and how they use those objects. Not only can people perceive properties of wielded object​s, they can also perceive properties by means of wielded objects. In the photo in the upper right is a person using the wooden rod to perceive whether he could stand on the inclined surface. In the photo in the lower right is the set up for an experiment in which participants assemble a tool that can be used to retrieve the white target object

Perceptual Learning

Perceptual skill improves with practice, a phenomenon known as perceptual learning. We are interested in exactly what kinds of practice are necessary and/or sufficient for such improvements in perception to occur. The picture to the left is a graph showing movement in "information space" for two different phases of an experiment on auditory perceptual learning.

Current Students

  • Alex Dayer, Master's Student, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
  • Jasmine Mason, Master's Student, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
  • Sean Campbell, Undergraduate Student, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University

Lab Alumni


  • Tony Chemero​, Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, University of Cincinnati
  • Val Farmer-Dougan​, Departments of Biology and Psychology, Illinois State University
  •  Alen Hajnal Department of Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi 
  • Takahiro Higuchi, Department of Health Promotion Sciences, Tokyo Metropolitan University
  •  Madhur Mangalam, Department of Psychology, University of Georgia
  • Dawn McBride, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
  • David Rosenbaum, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
  • Peter Smith​, School of Kinesiology and Recreation, Illinois State University
  • Thomas Stoffregen, School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota