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Whilst children's environments have been comprehensively researched and reported in environmental psychology, adolescents' use and evaluation of their environments have received virtually no attention; we believe this to be the first review of its kind. This chapter attempts to provide a theoretical framework for examining and explaining the meaning and function of four salient environments for adolescents – the home, school, neighbourhood and town/city centre. Furthermore, this chapter focuses on the function of these environments for the realization of social interaction and retreat opportunities. The theoretical framework has been informed by, but also tries to move forward from, Gibson's (1979) theory of affordances and Heft's later application of Gibson's ideas to outdoor environments (Heft, 1988, 2001). The significant contribution of this study is that it articulates and makes the case for a more socially-driven concept of affordances. The chapter concludes by reporting briefly on recent research undertaken in the UK (Clark, 2001; Clark and Uzzell, 2002) which sought to measure the socio-environmental affordances of the environment and their implications for adolescent behaviour.
Environmental perception – Gibson's theory of affordances
The issue of environmental perception, and more specifically, social perception, lies at the heart of any attempt to evaluate the function of the environment. In order for an individual to be able to interact with the environment they have to be able to perceive its social meaning.
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