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Inversion produces opposite size illusions for faces and bodies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Eamonn Walsh, Alexandra Vormberg, Josie Hannaford, Matthew R. Longo

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-24
JournalActa Psychologica
Early online date5 Sep 2018
Accepted/In press27 Aug 2018
E-pub ahead of print5 Sep 2018
PublishedNov 2018


King's Authors


Faces are complex, multidimensional, and meaningful visual stimuli. Recently, Araragi, Aotani, & Kitaoka (2012) demonstrated an intriguing face size illusion whereby an inverted face is perceived as larger than a physically identical upright face. Like the face, the human body is a highly familiar and important stimulus in our lives. Here, we investigated the specificity of the size underestimation of upright faces illusion, testing whether similar effects also hold for bodies, hands, and everyday objects. Experiments 1a and 1b replicated the face-size illusion. No size illusion was observed for hands or objects. Unexpectedly, a reverse size illusion was observed for bodies, so that upright bodies were perceived as larger than their inverted counterparts. Experiment 2 showed that the face illusion was maintained even when the photographic contrast polarity of the stimuli was reversed, indicating that the visual system driving the illusion relies on geometric featural information rather than image contrast. In Experiment 2, the reverse size illusion for bodies failed to reach significance. Our findings show that size illusions caused by inversion show a high level of category specificity, with opposite illusions for faces and bodies.

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