Effects of Meaning and Symmetry on Judgments of Size

Rolf Reber, Bo T. Christensen, Beat Meier

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Research has shown that people judge words as having bigger font size than non-words. This finding has been interpreted in terms of processing fluency, with higher fluency leading to judgments of bigger size. If so, symmetric numbers (e.g., 44) which can be processed more fluently are predicted to be judged as larger than asymmetric numbers (e.g., 43). However, recent research found that symmetric numbers were judged to be smaller than asymmetric numbers. This finding suggests that the mechanisms underlying size judgments may differ in meaningful and meaningless materials. Supporting this notion, we showed in Experiment 1 that meaning increased judged size, whereas symmetry decreased judged size. In the next two experiments, we excluded several alternative explanations for the differences in size judgments between meaningful and meaningless materials in earlier studies. This finding contradicts the notion that the mechanism underlying judgments of size is processing fluency.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1270
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2014


  • Number processing
  • Processing fluency
  • Size perception
  • Symmetry

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