The most radical hypothesis in ecological psychology is that information exists within the environment, specifying the affordances of that environment for that observer. If such information exists and can be detected by animals, then the proximate mechanisms for the detection of information and regulation of behavior can be directly linked with ultimate evolutionary functions. Such linkage is neither perfect nor infallible; information about affordances is not equivalent to information about fitness, and there is no necessity for the ecological information available to animals to be optimal for any given task. Nevertheless, the information that appears to be available is information about real, valuable, resources and, as such, has fitness value for organisms.
I have also speculated that the pickup of such information is tantamount to awareness of the environment, or at least of the environment insofar as it is specified by that information. This is also a very radical contention. Nevertheless, evidence from controlled studies with humans (such as the Lishman and Lee, 1973, swinging room studies), as well as plausible inferences from the precise use of information in naturalistic circumstances by animals, suggests that our appreciation of our place in the world is based on the specificity of the information we pick up. Thus, awareness is not an internal state of the mind or the brain, but an ecological and functional state of an animal making its way through the environment. If I am correct in these speculations, then the ability to pick up and use information is a central factor in the evolution of nervous systems, a subject to which I now turn.