September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
Perception of others' body sizes is predicted by own body size
Author Affiliations
  • Anne Thaler
    Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
    Centre for Integrative Neuroscience
  • Michael Geuss
    Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
  • Jeanine Stefanucci
    University of Utah
  • Simone Mölbert
    Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
    Graduate Training Centre of Neuroscience, University of Tübingen
  • Katrin Giel
    Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, University of Tübingen
  • Michael Black
    Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
  • Betty Mohler
    Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 843. doi:
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      Anne Thaler, Michael Geuss, Jeanine Stefanucci, Simone Mölbert, Katrin Giel, Michael Black, Betty Mohler; Perception of others' body sizes is predicted by own body size. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):843.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Previous research demonstrated that estimates of others' body sizes are biased towards the average body size in the population (Cornelissen, Gledhill, Cornelissen & Tovée, 2016). Bodies in the environment not only influence the internal reference of what is perceived as average or "normal", but also play an essential role in self-body size evaluation via social comparison (Cattarin, Thompson, Thomas & Williams, 2000). In two psychophysical experiments, we asked whether there is also an influence of own body size on the perception of others' body sizes. For Experiment 1, four biometric female avatars with a body mass index (BMI) of 15, 25, 35, and 45 were generated, and then their weight was altered (± 5, ±10, ±15, and ±20% BMI change) based on a statistical body model. For each of the avatar series, female participants spanning the BMI range memorized what the avatar's body looked like and then responded for the presented bodies varying in weight whether it was the same as the one memorized. Results showed no influence of participants' BMI on the accuracy of body size estimates, but sensitivity to weight changes was highest for bodies close to one's own BMI. In Experiment 2, we examined whether this effect was driven by memory or perceptual factors. Specifically, in a 2-alternative forced choice discrimination task, two bodies were presented simultaneously using the same BMI categories as in Experiment 1. If participants' body size influences sensitivity during simultaneous presentation, it would suggest that the effect found in Experiment 1 is not due to a better memorization of bodies that are close to one's own body size. Again, sensitivity to differences in body weight was highest for bodies close to one's own BMI. These results suggest that our own body size influences our perceptual ability to discriminate the sizes of other's bodies.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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