Direct and indirect perception of size

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Three experiments, using a reaction time paradigm, examine the direct (stimulus bound) and indirect (mediational inference) approaches to size perception. Subjects determine which of two stimuli is the larger when the two can be at different egocentric distances. The effects of two variables on reaction times are examined-distal ratio, the ratio of physical sizes of the stimuli, and proximal ratio, the ratio of the angular projections of the stimuli on the retina. In Experiment 1, both ratios are found to affect reaction times, with the proximal ratios yielding the larger effect, more in line with the predictions of the indirect approach. But the results of Experiments 2 and 3 indicate that distance is taken into greater account, the more similar the distal sizes of the stimuli. In one stimulus condition, distance appears not to affect reaction times. It is suggested that direct size perception occurs for large stimulus differences, indirect size perception for smaller differences. The identical results of the two experiments, one with and one without texture, point to some variable other than texture occlusion or interception as the stimulus for direct size perception. Some aspect of distance from the eye-level plane is suggested as an alternative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-314
Number of pages9
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • General Psychology


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