Perceiving the lengths of rods wielded in different media

Percept Psychophys. 1999 Oct;61(7):1336-44. doi: 10.3758/bf03206184.


In two experiments, we investigated the ability of participants to report the lengths of rods wielded in air or water. Homogeneous aluminum rods were employed in Experiment 1. The inertia of the rods was manipulated in Experiment 2 through the use of attached masses. Although the torques required in order to wield rods in water are substantially greater than those required to wield rods in air, the perceived lengths of rods wielded in the two media were very similar. Perceived length was found to be a function primarily of inertia in both media. The experiments also revealed a small influence of resistance due to the denser medium of water. The results demonstrate the ability of perceivers to extract a physical invariant from a complex array of forces. The discussion is focused on the role of invariants in dynamic touch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Size Perception / physiology*
  • Touch
  • Water*
  • Weight Perception / physiology*


  • Water