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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 awareness of the environment. 

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 whether, when, and how to perform such behaviors. Such possibilities 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 stepstool, 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.

Spring 2022 Students

  • Tyler Duffrin, Graduate Student , Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
  • Samantha Simmons, Undergraduate Student Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
  • Ashton Grant, Undergraduate Student Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
  • Devyn Oak, Undergraduate Student Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
  • Samantha Pociecha, Undergraduate Student Department of Psychology, Illinois State University

Lab Alumni

Collaborators

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