Normative Representation of Objects:
Evidence for an Ecological Bias in Object Perception and Memory

Konkle & Oliva

Objects in the world can be viewed at almost any distance, and so can subtend a variety of visual angles. An apple for instance can be held in the hand if you are eating it, or be perceived in a fruit bowl from a few meters away. When interacting physically or perceptually with a given object, our brain is exposed to a particular distribution of distances and their corresponding visual angles. To which extent is our visual representation sensitive to these statistical regularities? In this paper, we report results demonstrating that both perception and memory of an object’s visual size are influenced by a "normative size.” The normative size corresponds to the optimal size for viewing the object based on observer’s reports. We show that the perception of real world objects is implicitly sensitive to a normative visual size and that this norm is strongly correlated with the actual size of objects in the world (Experiment 1). Using a size-memory task and a change detection task, we show that long-term and short-term memory errors for an object’s size are systematically biased towards the normative size (Experiment 2 and 3). Altogether the results support the claims that perception of objects is sensitive to a normative size and that object memory is biased toward this perceptual norm.

Konkle, T., & Oliva, A. Examining how objects of different real-world sizes are represented in ventral visual cortex. Program No. 326.12. 2010 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. San Diego, CA: Society for Neuroscience, 2010. Online.