Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 6, pp 1623–1629 | Cite as

Getting a grip on heaviness perception: a review of weight illusions and their probable causes

  • Gavin BuckinghamEmail author


Weight illusions—where one object feels heavier than an identically weighted counterpart—have been the focus of many recent scientific investigations. The most famous of these illusions is the ‘size–weight illusion’, where a small object feels heavier than an identically weighted, but otherwise similar-looking, larger object. There are, however, a variety of similar illusions which can be induced by varying other stimulus properties, such as surface material, temperature, colour, and even shape. Despite well over 100 years of research, there is little consensus about the mechanisms underpinning these illusions. In this review, I will first provide an overview of the weight illusions that have been described. I will then outline the dominant theories that have emerged over the past decade for why we consistently misperceive the weights of objects which vary in size, with a particular focus on the role of lifters’ expectations of heaviness. Finally, I will discuss the magnitude of the various weight illusions and suggest how this largely overlooked facet of the topic might resolve some of the debates surrounding the cause of these misperceptions of heaviness.


Size–weight illusion Material–weight illusion Object lifting Grip force Weight perception Expectations 



The author would like to thank P. Dimitriou, L. van Eimeren, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, School of Life SciencesHeriot-Watt UniversityEdinburghUK

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