We're building an app that has an element that performs some specific set of actions. The element itself is new, and tests are very conclusive: for the target the app is directed to, the affordance is clear (while for other targets, it's not, but this is basic in Gibson's theory).

So I'm writing the documentation for the app, and came to the part where I have to describe this element, and I was simply explaining the fact that affordances had yet to be discovered but test are conclusive, providing all the theoretical background and testing results at hand. Then I thought that instead of having to re-create the wheel, I could simply include existing research on the concept of "yet to be discovered affordances" itself (assuming it exists).

Note: Of course I'm aware about Nielsen's UX Discoverability and Gaver's False affordances concepts, so this NOT what I'm asking. In some way, I think it's the state previous to UX Discoverability.

Anyways, maybe it's just that I can't think the proper words, but my question is "Is there a concept for "yet to be discovered" affordances?"

1 Answer 1


From Wikipedia:, Gaver's named them hidden affordances :

William Gaver divided affordances into three categories: perceptible, hidden, and false.

A false affordance is an apparent affordance that does not have any real function, meaning that the actor perceives nonexistent possibilities for action. A good example of a false affordance is a placebo button.

A hidden affordance indicates that there are possibilities for action, but these are not perceived by the actor. For example, it is not apparent from looking at a shoe that it could be used to open a wine bottle.

For an affordance to be perceptible, there is information available such that the actor perceives and can then act upon the existing affordance.

In the same article you could observe that there's not fully consensus about the term.

For some authors, affordances are all the possibilities of interaction, including the ones that have not being discovered yet. And then perceivable affordances will be the ones that an user actually acknowledge.

  • Yes, I already mentioned Gaver's definitions, and what you say about "affordances are all the possibilities of interaction" is the core of Gibson's theory (even the " including the ones that have not being discovered yet" part). But that would leave me with just "affordance", and my question is if there's a concept/terminology for this subset of the affordance concept, which is not covered by Garver's hidden affordances (although perceptible would be the closest one, is not exact, because the element's affordances aren't entirely perceptible at first sight, which is core to the design
    – Devin
    Feb 6, 2016 at 16:04
  • (continues) so the real concept is not perceptible but "yet to be discovered", I'm just looking for a more accurate terminology and if possible studies on such terminology
    – Devin
    Feb 6, 2016 at 16:05
  • btw, it's a very good question. As I understand it, affordances refers to the general available interactions that an object/system/etc offers OR the interacts that are perceivable, and not what particular number of affordances of that total a particular group of users is aware in a given time. I'm not sure if what you're looking for is compatible with those two definitions. I'll search for more information ang get back if I find something. Feb 6, 2016 at 22:16
  • I found this, that seems to confirm my theoryLink: 1) An affordance exists relative to the action capabilities of a particular actor. 2) The existence of an affordance is independent of the actor’s ability to perceive it (emphasis added) . 3)An affordance does not change as the needs and goals of the actor change. [2] Feb 6, 2016 at 22:27
  • again, rewobs, I fully understand it, and also mentioned Gibson's theories on my question. What I'm asking is if that part you're emphasizing has a name instead of having to explain it all
    – Devin
    Feb 6, 2016 at 22:34

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