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Linkenauger, S. A., Witt, J. K., and Proffitt, D. R. (2011). Taking a hands-on approach: Apparent grasping ability scales the perception of object size. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37(5) 1432-1441.

We examined whether the apparent size of an object is scaled to the morphology of the relevant body part with which one intends to act on it. To be specific, we tested if the visually perceived size of graspable objects is scaled to the extent of apparent grasping ability for the individual. Previous research has shown that right-handed individuals perceive their right hand as larger and capable of grasping larger objects than their left. In the first 2 experiments, we found that objects looked smaller when placed in or judged relative to their right hand compared to their left. In the third experiment, we directly manipulated apparent hand size by magnifying the participants’ hands. Participants perceived objects to be smaller when their hand was magnified than when their hand was unmagnified. We interpret these results as demonstrating that perceivers use the extent of their hands’ grasping abilities as “perceptual rulers” to scale the apparent size of graspable objects. Furthermore, hand size manipulations did not affect the perceived size of objects too big to be grasped, which suggests that hand size is only used as a scaling mechanism when the object affords the relevant action, in this case, grasping.

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