Intentional affordances of objects


Early in development, as young infants grasp, suck, and manipulate objects, they learn something of the objects’ affordances for action (Gibson, 1979) (...) but the tools and artifacts of a culture have another dimension - what Cole (1996) calls the ‘ideal’ dimension - that produce another set of affordances for anyone with the appropriate kinds of social-cognitive and social learning skills. As human children observe other people using cultural tools and artifacts, they often engage in the process of imitative learning in which they attempt to place themselves in the ‘intentional space’ of the user - discerning the user’s goal, what she is using the artifact ‘for’. By engaging in this imitative learning, the child joins the other person in affirming what ‘we’ use this object ‘for’: we use hammers for hammering and pencils for writing. After she has engaged in such a process the child comes to see some cultural objects and artifacts as having, in addition to their natural sensory-motor affordances, another set of what we might call ‘intentional affordances’ based on her understanding of the intentional relations that other persons have with that object or artifact - that is, the intentional relations that other persons have to the world through the artifact

Why do I blog this? Through intention reading and imitation kids learn the functions, the “intentional affordances” of objects used for instrumental purposes. I like this distinction between natural and intentional affordances