Category and continuum in mental comparisons

Stephen M. Kosslyn, Gregory L. Murphy, Mary E. Bemesderfer, Karen J. Feinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Compared 5 distinct classes of models of how individuals judge the relative sizes of named objects. The model that posited simultaneous processing of both analog and discrete representation is most consistent with the findings of the 4 experiments (a total of 132 undergraduate Ss). In Exp I, Ss learned the sizes of 6 stick men, each of which was a different size and drawn in a different color. Ss categorized the 3 larger figures as "large" and the 3 smaller ones as "small." After learning sizes, colors, and categories, Ss received pairs of color names and decided as quickly as possible which referred to the larger figure. The amount of overlearning of category labels critically determined whether disparity in sizes of compared figures always affected decision times. Exp II studied the "congruity effect," wherein 2 relatively large things were compared faster in terms of which was larger than in terms of which was smaller, but vice versa for 2 relatively small things. The congruity effect was partially eliminated when category labels were highly overlearned. Exps III and IV investigated the role of visual imagery as a form of analog representation. Results provide evidence that images are used when to-be-compared objects fall into the same size category; when objects are in different categories, the category labels themselves can be used to perform size comparisons. (37 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-375
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1977


  • relative size judgments of named objects, analog vs discrete representations in mental comparison processes, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Category and continuum in mental comparisons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this