"The word "affordance" was originally invented by the perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson (1977, 1979) to refer to the actionable properties between the world and an actor (a person or animal)."

~ Norman, D.

Can affordance be found in actor-actor relationships?

3 Answers 3


No, because Gibson's clearly defines the theory as an interaction between ANIMALS (not even users or people!) and its environment.

From The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception

The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment.

This is very long to explain because Gibson develops this concept across several books and papers, but simply put: you can't extract an affordance from a person, because you don't know what that person is or represents (however, the context that person may create would transmit affordances. In this case, you could say that your question is feasible)

All this being said, what you mention is closer to Pamela Homer and Lynn Kahle's theory of Social Adaptation

  • 1
    Really enjoyed reading your answer. Much appreciated. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 8:04
  • 1
    Gibsons last book was a bit 'hippy' though as he was fighting a losing battle against cognitive psychology
    – PhillipW
    Commented Dec 15, 2018 at 9:55
  • Humans are animals though. Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 9:11

I say yes.

Many people have expanded Gibson's definition to have broader definitions of "animal" and "environment" because it's useful to do so as we try to understand how we interact with the things around us.

My environment includes inanimate objects, animals, other people, organizations, etc. So we could consider the affordances - the properties - of the people around me and what "uses" they offer me. One person is approachable, another is authoritarian, others are shy, loud, attractive, they appear to have different abilities. So I'll interact with a friendly bus driver differently than I will with a movie star I meet on the street.


Turn taking in conversations is quite interesting: there are social 'rules' which people learn so that they can organise a 'conversation'


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