Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Enactive Perception

Enactive perception is a reaction against the traditional view that the function of perception is to construct internal representations of the external world. Enactive perception, which is a view consistent with embodied cognitive science, argues instead that the role of perception is to access information in the world when it is needed. That is, perception is not a representational process, but is instead a sensorimotor skill (Noë, 2004, 2009).

Enactive perception can be viewed as a modernization of Gibson's (1966, 1979) ecological approach to perception. Gibson noted that "when the 'senses' are considered as active systems they are classified by modes of activity not by modes of conscious quality" (1966, p. 49). It can also be viewed as a psychological implication of adopting Brooks' (1999) view that it is unnecessary to create costly internal representations of the world when the world exists ready to be inspected. As a result, enactive perception is commonly used to illustrate embodied cognitive science's claim that the mind extends into the world.


  1. Brooks, R. A. (1999). Cambrian Intelligence: The Early History Of The New AI. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. Gibson, J. J. (1966). The Senses Considered As Perceptual Systems. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
  3. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach To Visual Perception. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
  4. Noë, A. (2004). Action In Perception. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  5. Noë, A. (2009). Out of Our Heads. New York: Hill and Wang.

(Added November 2009)