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Lifting without Seeing: The Role of Vision in Perceiving and Acting upon the Size Weight Illusion
PLoS One (2010)
  • Gavin Buckingham, The University of Western Ontario
  • Melvyn A. Goodale, The University of Western Ontario

BACKGROUND: Our expectations of an object's heaviness not only drive our fingertip forces, but also our perception of heaviness. This effect is highlighted by the classic size-weight illusion (SWI), where different-sized objects of identical mass feel different weights. Here, we examined whether these expectations are sufficient to induce the SWI in a single wooden cube when lifted without visual feedback, by varying the size of the object seen prior to the lift.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Participants, who believed that they were lifting the same object that they had just seen, reported that the weight of the single, standard-sized cube that they lifted on every trial varied as a function of the size of object they had just seen. Seeing the small object before the lift made the cube feel heavier than it did after seeing the large object. These expectations also affected the fingertip forces that were used to lift the object when vision was not permitted. The expectation-driven errors made in early trials were not corrected with repeated lifting, and participants failed to adapt their grip and load forces from the expected weight to the object's actual mass in the same way that they could when lifting with vision.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Vision appears to be crucial for the detection, and subsequent correction, of the ostensibly non-visual grip and load force errors that are a common feature of this type of object interaction. Expectations of heaviness are not only powerful enough to alter the perception of a single object's weight, but also continually drive the forces we use to lift the object when vision is unavailable.

  • Adaptation,
  • Physiological,
  • Illusions,
  • Lifting,
  • Muscle Contraction,
  • Muscle,
  • Skeletal,
  • Psychomotor Performance,
  • Size Perception,
  • Stress,
  • Mechanical,
  • Vision,
  • Ocular,
  • Weight Perception
Publication Date
January, 2010
Citation Information
Gavin Buckingham and Melvyn A. Goodale. "Lifting without Seeing: The Role of Vision in Perceiving and Acting upon the Size Weight Illusion" PLoS One Vol. 5 Iss. 3 (2010)
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