Canonical visual sizes for real world objects

Konkle, & Oliva

Real-world objects vary in their physical size and can be viewed from a range of distances, thus they can subtend a range of angles in the visual field. 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, mental imagery, and reconstructive memory paradigms. In Experiment 1, observers resized images of 100 real-world objects and selected the best visual size to see each object. Observers were consistent in their responses, preferring visual sizes that were proportional to the log of the physical size of the objects in the world. When a different set of observers were told the images were pictures of toys, the selected visual sizes were smaller on the screen, implying that the conceived physical size of the object influences the preferred visual size, independent of information content in the stimulus. In Experiment 2, observers imagined real-world objects on the computer monitor. The visual sizes of imagined objects also scaled with the log physical size of the real-world object and matched the visual sizes found in Experiment 1. In Experiment 3, we examined the reconstruction of objects from memory using a drawing paradigm. To understand the impact of the frame of space around the object, three different paper sizes were employed. The drawn objects scaled with the paper size, such that the ratio of the object within the frame was equivalent across all three experiments and all paper sizes. These results demonstrate that conceptual knowledge about the physical size of objects in the world influences the visual size at which objects are preferentially viewed, imagined, and reconstructed.

Konkle, T. & Oliva, A. (2009). Canonical visual sizes for real world objects Journal of Vision. 9(8): 815; doi:10.1167/9.8.815;