Screen size matches of familiar images are biased by canonical size, rather than showing a memory size effect

Abstract

Being confronted with the depiction of a familiar object activates a number of properties of the object that are stored in memory. Memory properties such as color and size have been shown to interfere with the processing of the color and of the size of the depiction, so that that reaction times are longer when the color or size of the depiction are incongruent with the stored knowledge about the object. In the case of color, it is known that the memorized information also affects the appearance of the depiction, for example when a gray banana appears slightly yellow, a phenomenon known as memory color effect. Here, I tested whether a memory size effect also occurs. To this aim, I conducted one experiment where observers matched either the screen size or the real-world size of pairs of animals or vehicles. The results indicate that the screen matches are biased in the same direction as the real-world size matches, opposite of what would be predicted by a memory color effect. This result was replicated in a second experiment using a different and larger set of animal images. Overall, I confirm that observers cannot ignore the real-world size information when they attempt to match the screen size of two items, although this results in a bias towards the canonical size of the items, rather than in a memory size effect.

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Acknowledgements

Matteo Valsecchi is supported by the SFB TRR 135/Project A8 Grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. I would like to thank Theresa Geier and Benita Nmakwe for help with data collection and stimulus construction, Cesar Echavarria and Shahin Nasr for providing the rectilinearity toolbox and Christoph Witzel for his comments and suggestions during the preparation of the manuscript. The dataset pertaining to this study is available at zenodo.org (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3402735).

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All the procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (the study protocol was approved by the local ethics committee at the University of Giessen, approval number: LEK FB6 2017-08) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Valsecchi, M. Screen size matches of familiar images are biased by canonical size, rather than showing a memory size effect. Psychological Research 85, 246–258 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01247-6

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