Harry Heft

Harry Heft

Professor Emeritus
Position Type
- Present

Prof. Heft has been on the Denison faculty since 1976. His graduate training was in an interdisciplinary program concerning the relationship between psychological processes and the environment. At Denison, he has been a recipient of the Charles A. Brickman Award for Teaching Excellence. He has also been elected as a Fellow in both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. Dr. Heft serves on the Editorial Boards of the journals “Environment & Behavior” and “William James Studies,” and he is the Book Review Editor for the “Journal of Environmental Psychology.” He teaches courses in environmental psychology, history and systems of psychology, and cultural psychology.

B.S., University of Maryland; M.S., University of Bridgeport; Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University



Prof. Heft's scholarly interests primarily concern topics in the related areas of environmental and ecological psychology. His book "Ecological Psychology in Context" (LEA, 2001) elucidates the theoretical and philosophical foundations of ecological psychology and some of its connections to current work in cultural psychology.

Much of his research has examined the process by which humans find their way through the environment, with its focus on identifying the environmental information that is utilized in learning a path or route. On-going research in this vein is attempting to understand how this route knowledge can be employed to promote understanding of the overall configuration of a place. He has also conducted research in the past on the perception of affordances (i.e., the perceived functional meaning of objects and environmental features), the development of children's navigational skills, environmental aesthetics, and the effects of noise in the home on cognitive development.


  • Heft, H., & Marsh, K.L. (Eds., 2005). Studies in Perception Action VIII. Lawrence Erlbaum, Publishers.
  • Heft, H. & Chawla, L. (2005). Children as agents in sustainable development: Conditions for competence. In M. Blades & C. Spencer (Eds.), Children and Their Environments. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Heft, H. (2003). Affordances, dynamic experience, and the challenge of reification. Ecological Psychology, 15, 149-180.
  • Heft, H. (2002). Restoring naturalism to James’s epistemology: A belated reply to Miller & Bode. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 38, 557-580.
  • Heft, H. (2001). Ecological psychology in context: James Gibson, Roger Baker, and the legacy of William James’s radical empiricism. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
  • Heft, H., & Nasar, J. L. (2000). Evaluating environmental scenes using dynamic versus static displays. Environment & Behavior, 32, 301-322.
  • Heft, H. (1998). The elusive environment in environmental psychology, British Journal of Psychology, 89, 519-523. Heft, H. (1998). Why primary experience is necessary. Contemporary Psychology, 43, 450-451.
  • Heft, H. (1998). Towards a functional ecology of behavior and development: The legacy of Joachim F. Wohlwill. In D. Gorlitz, H. J. Harloff, G. Mey & J. Valsiner (Eds.), Children, cities, and psychological theories: Developing relationships. (pp. 85-110). Berlin: Walter De Gruyter.
  • Heft, H. (1997). The relevance of Gibson’s ecological approach for environment-behavior studies. In G.T. Moore & R.W. Marans (Eds.), Advances in environment, behavior, and design Vol. 4. (pp. 71-108) New York: Plenum.
  • Heft, H. (1996). The ecological approach to navigation: A Gibsonian perspective. In J. Portugali (Ed.), The construction of cognitive maps (pp. 105-132). Dordrect: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Heft, H. (1993). A methodological note on overestimates of reaching distance: Distinguishing between perceptual and analytical judgments. Ecological Psychology, 5, 255-271.


Student Collaborations

Selected Student Research Collaborations

  • Heft, H., & Poe, G. (2005). Pragmatism, environmental aesthetics, and the spectator approach to visual perception. Paper presented at the meetings of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., August, 2005.
  • Heft, H., & McFarland, D. (1999). Children’s and adult’s assessments of a step affordance for self and others. Poster presented at the meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Gress, J.E., & Heft, H. (1998). Do territorial actions attenuate the effects of high density? A field study. In J. Sanford & B.R. Connell (Eds.). People, places, and public policy, Proceedings of the Environmental Design Research Association, St. Louis, MO.
  • Heft, H., & Kent, M. (1993). Way-Finding as event perception: The structure of route information. In H. Heft (Chair) “Navigation and environmental cognition: Ecological considerations”. A paper presented at the meetings of the International Conference on Event Perception and Action, Vancouver, British Columbia.
  • Heft, H., & Blondal, R. (1987). The influence of cutting rate on the evaluation of the affective content of film. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 5, 1-14.


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