The Ecological Approach to Navigation: A Gibsonian Perspective

  • Harry Heft
Part of the GeoJournal Library book series (GEJL, volume 32)


From an ecological perspective, a basic form of navigating is wayfinding which involves the control of travel through perceiving temporally-structured visual information. This information consists of an optical flow of perspective structure generated by a perceiver moving along a path of travel. The generation of visual information through action, which in turn is controlled by that information, is indicative of the on-going, reciprocal interaction between the perceiver and the environment. It is suggested that the perspective structure consists of a sequence of transitions between successive vistas which uniquely specifies a route to a destination. Also, like the information specifying other types of events, this information can be described as a nested hierarchical structure that unfolds over time. A series of experiments are reviewed that employ dynamic displays of paths in order to examine this approach to way- finding. In addition, it is proposed that in the process of traveling paths through the environment, invariant information specifying the overall layout of the environment is revealed to a perceiver. In this way, the panorama of the environment is apprehended. The role of the affordances of places in navigational processes is also briefly considered. Overall, this ecological analysis suggests a need to reexamine our standard assumptions about the nature of perceiving and its role in navigation.


Optical Flow Ecological Approach Event Perception Invariant Structure Place Attachment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry Heft
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDenison UniversityGranvilleOhio

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