Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Alen Hajnal

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Mark Huff

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 School



Previous research suggests that the processing of affordances may require more perceptually relevant information than words can provide (Surber et al., 2018; Chainay & Humphreys, 2002). The present study investigates this hypothesis with the shoebox task used in Bowers and Turner (2003). A list of 81 object nouns (targets) and associated features (primes: affordance, semantic, and non-associates) was compiled from the McRae, Cree, Seidenberg, and McNorgan (2005) norms. Affordances denote possibilities for action in relation to the object (e.g. chair – sit), whereas semantic features indicate definitional characteristics (e.g. chair – has legs). Affordances and semantic features served as primes in the present experiments. Primes were presented as words in all experiments. Participants decided if primes and targets could fit inside of a shoebox across three experiments. Experiment 1 presented target objects as words (i.e. the name of the object) or photographs (Brodeur, Dionne-Dostie, Montreuil, & Lepage, 2010). Experiment 2 presented target objects as photographs degraded by 1 of 3 levels (clear, medium blur, maximum blur). Experiment 3 presented target objects as photographs that began degraded and slowly became clear. Results for Experiments 1 and 2 showed a significant priming effect for affordances (i.e. affordance primed objects were responded to faster than objects primed with non-associate, as well as a significant effect of accuracy for affordance primed objects. Experiment 3 results showed a marginally significant effect of prime type on reaction time. These results are consistent with the idea that affordance perception is optimized for real-world stimuli.