On a familiar reading of Gibson (1979), he is said to have held something like this. For example, Campbell (2002) characterizes Gibson as follows:Now, I had always thought that Gibson's view is that one always perceives affordances. I'm not entirely sure why, but I thought that perception was always supposed to work something like this: Affordances structure light (for example) and humans pick up the information in the light. Simple.
... suppose, for example, that an unfamiliar piece of apparatus appears on a workbench. I have no idea what this thing is for. I don't know if I can touch it - maybe I will be electrocuted, or the thing will blind me, if I do that. Or maybe it is simply the latest kind of television, or a paper weight. So I don't see it as affording anything in particular. In that case, by Gibson's theory, the thing should be simply invisible; I should be able to see it only when I am told what it is for. But that is not a persuasive conclusion; it seems perfectly obvious that we can see things without knowing what they can be used for.As I read Gibson he is not committed to such a conclusion, for it is not Gibson's view that we only see affordances, or that we can only see objects in so far as we can see their affordances. Gibson's point comes earlier: that we can see affordances. The significance of his thought is this: for Gibson, perceptual consciousness is not confined to so-called categorical properties of things, such as shape say, or size, or qualities like colour. Gibson is advancing 'the radical hypothesis' that 'the "values", and "meanings" of things in the environment can be perceived directly' (Gibson, 1979, p.127). (Noë, 2010, p. 247).
(Campbell, 2002, p.143)
I wonder how many people read Gibson as Noë does. Comments welcome. Comments with references to Gibsonian pronouncements even more welcome.
But, suppose that Noë is right. Is there some place where Gibson spells out when one perceives (or can perceive) affordances and when not. In other words, when do we get affordance perception and when do we not?