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The Importance of Size Constancy

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Means that the perception of an object is not so much a process of perception but rather it is a cognitive process that depends on the memory of past experience. Haber and Levin (2001) set up an experiment to test how big a role memory plays in the perception of size. They realized that familiarity with an object was a key factor in its perception and so they devised categories for measuring this, including prototypic size which applies to all similar versions of an object. Assessing participants’ estimation of objects which were in view, and those which were not, data can be gathered that sheds light on the difference between seeing an object, and just thinking about it from memory.

College students are able to estimate the size of common objects quite easily and accurately even when the objects are not visible. When they view objects which are unfamiliar to them, accuracy falls, suggesting that people rely more on the memory of an object they are already familiar with, or of similar objects they have encountered in the past, than on perception of an actual object in the present.

When there is a possible range of sizes for a particular object, which is called token variability, this also reduces accuracy, suggesting that both perception and cognition play a role. The distance was the most important factor in determining the size, familiarity, and the variability in possible size of an object all played a role. Cognitive processes were used when distance information was poor. This suggests that distance is not the most important factor in estimating the size of unfamiliar objects.

The researchers conclude that “ our knowledge of the world and not our perception of the world determine our estimates of size in the world” (Haber and Levin, 2001, p. This creates a whole new area of research because it is still not clear exactly how size perception works. Later work by Wesp et al. (2004) on this problem of determining how size estimation is carried out set up an experiment to evaluate how well observers estimate the size of an object when it viewed in use.

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