Publication 6712

Heft H. (1981) An examination of constructivist and Gibsonian approaches to environment psychology. Population and Environment 4(4): 227–245. Fulltext at
Much of the conceptual and empirical work in environmental psychology has been directly shaped byconstructivism – a metatheoretical framework which views perception as essentially a cognitive process. Two influential constructivist theories are information-processing and Piaget’s genetic epistemology. As a consequence of adopting this framework, environmental psychologists have focused their investigations on cognitive processes rather than the environment. However, the role played by cognitive processes in perception is a function of the degree to which phenomenal characteristics of the environment are specified in the information available to the perceiver, and the present emphasis by environmental psychologists on cognitive processes may reflect an underestimate of the richness of this information. J. J. Gibson’s ecological analysis of perception postulates that environmental layout and meaning are directly specified in ambient light, and, as a result, his account suggests that the environment is a direct and unmediated determinant of perception and action. Further, he offers a framework which allows for both an objective and psychologically meaningful description of the environment. For these reasons, his perspective has much to offer the environmental psychologist.


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