Eleanor J. Gibson
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|Eleanor J. Gibson|
December 7, 1910|
|Died||December 30, 2002
Columbia, South Carolina
|Alma mater||Smith College, Yale University|
|Doctoral advisor||Clark Hull|
|Known for||Visual Cliff, Differentiation and Enrichment of Embedded Structures|
|Notable awards||National Medal of Science (1992)|
Eleanor J. Gibson (December 7, 1910 – December 30, 2002) was an American psychologist. Among her contributions to psychology, the most important are the study of perception in infants and toddlers. She is popularly known for the "visual cliff" experiment in which precocial animals, and crawling human infants, showed their ability to perceive depth by avoiding the deep side of a virtual cliff. Along with her husband James J. Gibson, she forwarded the concept that perceptual learning takes place by differentiation. Gibson is credited with creating the Gibsonian or ecological theory of development, which centers on the concept of affordances and how children learn to perceive them.
According to Life magazine in 1959, the "Visual Cliff" was a wooden table from the edge of which strong plate glass extended, and Children were put on the table top and coaxed to crawl out over the glass...But when they got to the edge of the cliff and looked down almost all of them quickly withdrew. Even their mothers' most persuasive urgings could not get them out. Similar studies were done with animals, including rats and kittens.
The visual cliff findings indicated that perception is an essentially adaptive process, or as Dr. Gibson put it, We perceive to learn, as well as learn to perceive.
In 1982, she was invited to Beijing to teach Chinese psychologists about recent theories and techniques of research.
- American Psychological Foundation
- Gibson, E.J., & Pick, A.D. (2000). Perceptual learning and development: An ecological approach to perceptual learning and development. Oxford: Oxford University.
- Gibson, E.J., & Walk, R.D. (1960). The “visual cliff.” Scientific American, 202, 67–71.
- National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
Further reading 
- Pick, Anne D. (1970–80). "Gibson, Eleanor Jack". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 21. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 120–125. ISBN 0684101149. (subscription required)
- "Gibson, Eleanor J." by Patricia Skinner
- Transcript of oral history interview and CV (both in PDF format) from the Society for Research in Child Development
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