"Scaffolding" and "affordance" as integrative concepts in the cognitive sciences

Anna Estany, Sergio Martínez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


There are (at least) two ways to think of the differences in basic concepts and typologies that one can find in the different scientific practices that constitute a research tradition. One is the fundamentalist view: the fewer the better. The other is a non-fundamentalist view of science whereby the integration of different concepts into the right abstraction grounds an explanation that is not grounded as the sum of the explanations supported by the parts. Integrative concepts are often associated with idealizations that can successfully set the stage for different phenomena to be compared or for explanations of different phenomena to be considered as jointly increasing our understanding of reality beyond that which each explanation provides separately. In this paper, our aim is to argue for the importance of the notions of an "affordance" and "scaffolding" as integrative concepts in the cognitive sciences. The integrational role of the concept of affordance is closely related with the capacity of affordances to generate the scaffoldings leading to the integration. The capacities of affordances that turn them into (stable) scaffoldings explain why such notions are often used interchangeably (as we shall see). On this basis, we aim to show that the concepts of affordance and scaffolding provide the sort of epistemic perspective that can overcome common complaints about the limits and unity of the cognitive sciences once claims about extended cognition are taken seriously. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-111
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Affordance
  • Distributed Cognition
  • Extended Cognition
  • Integrative Concept
  • Scaffolding


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