What the situation affords: habits and heedful attitudes in skilled performance

Publication Details

Miyahara, K., Ransom, T. and Gallagher, S. 2020. What the situation affords: habits and heedful attitudes in skilled performance. In Fausto Caruana and Italo Testa (eds.), Pragmatist Approaches from Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Social Theory (120-136). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


We explore different modes of experience in performance, including various experiences of flow, heedful performance, and habit. In contrast to conceptions that take habit to be automatic or a more-or-less rote repetition of behavior, Dewey and Merleau-Ponty consider habit to be a general bodily responsiveness to the world. Dewey’s conception of intelligent habit involves a thoughtful attitude of care and attunement to the parameters of the task. Merleau-Ponty likewise describes habit as being both motor and perceptual. Habit is an open and adaptive way in which the body learns to cope with familiar situations in ways that involve some degree of heedful performance. The deployment of a motor habit, for example, adapts to the specific contour of the situation—different situations make different demands on how the habitual task, here and now, ought to be achieved. This conception of habit meshes well with ecological affordance-based accounts of action and perception.

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