Objects, big and small: evidence for canonical visual size in object representation

Konkle & Oliva

Real-world objects typically have a fixed physical size and can be viewed from a range of distances, thus they can subtend a range of angles in the visual field. Given this range, is there a visual size that is preferred? Akin to studies on canonical viewpoint, we present a series of studies supporting the existence of a canonical visual size for objects, using subjective norming, short-term memory, and long-term memory paradigms. The data show that the canonical visual size is (i) the anchor for memory of the object's visual size, (ii) related to the known physical size of the object in the world, dissociated from the information content in the stimulus, and (iii) depends on the frame of space around the object, both on the screen and in real-world viewing settings. These results suggest that knowledge about the physical size of objects in the world influences the visual size at which objects are preferentially viewed and optimally remembered.

Konkle T, Oliva A, 2008, "Objects, big and small: evidence for canonical visual size in object representation" Perception 37 ECVP Abstract Supplement, page 167.