Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 63, Issue 7, pp 1140–1152 | Cite as

The independence of size perception and distance perception

  • Ralph Norman Haber
  • Charles A. Levin


Research on distance perception has focused on environmental sources of information, which have been well documented; in contrast, size perception research has focused on familiarity or has relied on distance information. An analysis of these two parallel bodies of work reveals their lack of equivalence. Furthermore, definitions of familiarity need environmental grounding, specifically concerning the amount of size variation among different tokens of an object. To demonstrate the independence of size and distance perception, subjects in two experiments were asked to estimate the sizes of common objects from memory and then to estimate both the sizes and the distances of a subset of such objects displayed in front of them. The experiments found that token variation was a critical variable in the accuracy of size estimations, whether from memory or with vision, and that distance had no impact at all on size perception. Furthermore, when distance information was good, size had no effect on distance estimation; in contrast, at far distances, the distances to token variable or unknown objects were estimated with less accuracy. The results suggest that size perception has been misconceptualized, so that the relevant research to understand its properties has not been undertaken. The size-distance invariance hypothesis was shown to be inadequate for both areas of research.


Distance Estimation Object Type Familiar Object Distance Information Distance Perception 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bolles, R. C., &Bailey, C. (1956). Importance of object recognition in size constancy.Journal of Experimental Psychology,51, 222–225.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Brunswik, E. (1956).Systematic and representative design in experimental psychology. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cutting, J. E. (1998). Information from the world around us. In J. Hochberg (Ed.),Perception and cognition at century’s end (pp. 71–97). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cutting, J. E., &Vishton, P.M. (1995). Perceiving layout and knowing distances: The integration, relative potency, and contextural use of different information about depth. In W. Epstein & S. Rogers (Eds.),Perception of space and motion (pp. 71–118). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Epstein, W. (1961). The known-size-apparent-distance hypothesis.American Journal of Psychology,74, 333–346.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Epstein, W. (1977).Stability and constancy in visual perception. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Gillam, B. J. (1995). The perception of spatial layout from static optical information. In W. Epstein & S. Rogers (Eds.),Perception of space and motion (pp. 23–70). San Diego: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gillam, B. J. (1998). Illusions at century’s end. In J. Hochberg (Ed.),Perception and cognition at century’s end (pp. 97–137). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Haber, R.N. (1983). Stimulus information and processing mechanisms in visual space perception. In J. Beck, B. Hope, & A. Rosenfeld (Eds.),Human and machine vision (pp. 157–235). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  10. Haber, R.N. (1986). Toward a theory of the perceived layout of scenes. In A. Rosenfeld (Ed.),Human and machine vision II (pp. 109–148). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Haber, R. N., &Haber, L. (1991). Why mobile robots need a spatial memory. In P. S. Schenker (Ed.),Sensor fusion III: 3D perception and recognition (Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 1383, pp. 411–424). Bellingham, WA: SPIE Press.Google Scholar
  12. Haber, R. N., &Levin, C. A. (1989). The lunacy of moon watching: Some preconditions on explanations of the moon illusion. In M. Hershenson (Ed.),The moon illusion (pp. 299–318). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  13. Hershenson, M. (1992). Size-distance invariance: Kinetic invariance is different from static invariance.Perception & Psychophysics,51, 541–548.Google Scholar
  14. Hershenson, M. (1999).Visual space perception. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hochberg, J. E. (1971). Perception: II. Space and movement. In J. W. Kling & L. A. Riggs (Eds.),Woodworth and Schlosberg’s Experimental psychology. New York: Holt, Reinhart & Winston.Google Scholar
  16. Ittleson, W.H. (1960).Visual space perception. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  17. Kilpatrick, F. P., &Ittelson, W. H. (1953). The size-distance invariance hypothesis.Psychological Review,64, 188–192.Google Scholar
  18. Levin, C. A., &Haber, R. N. (1993). Visual angle as a determinant of perceived interobject distance.Perception & Psychophysics,54, 250–259.Google Scholar
  19. Sedgwick, H. (1986). Space perception. In K. R. Boff, L. Kaufman, & J. P. Thomas (Eds.),Handbook of perception and human performance (Vol. 1, pp. 1–57). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  20. Toye, R. C. (1986). The effect of viewing position on the perceived layout of space.Perception & Psychophysics,40, 85–92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaRiverside
  3. 3.Baldwin Wallace CollegeBerea

Personalised recommendations