Perception-action dissociation generalizes to the size-inertia illusion

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Apr;111(7):1409-16. doi: 10.1152/jn.00557.2013. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


Two objects of similar visual aspects and of equal mass, but of different sizes, generally do not elicit the same percept of heaviness in humans. The larger object is consistently felt to be lighter than the smaller, an effect known as the "size-weight illusion." When asked to repeatedly lift the two objects, the grip forces were observed to adapt rapidly to the true object weight while the size-weight illusion persisted, a phenomenon interpreted as a dissociation between perception and action. We investigated whether the same phenomenon can be observed if the mass of an object is available to participants through inertial rather than gravitational cues and if the number and statistics of the stimuli is such that participants cannot remember each individual stimulus. We compared the responses of 10 participants in 2 experimental conditions, where they manipulated 33 objects having uncorrelated masses and sizes, supported by a frictionless, air-bearing slide that could be oriented vertically or horizontally. We also analyzed the participants' anticipatory motor behavior by measuring the grip force before motion onset. We found that the perceptual illusory effect was quantitatively the same in the two conditions and observed that both visual size and haptic mass had a negligible effect on the anticipatory gripping control of the participants in the gravitational and inertial conditions, despite the enormous differences in the mechanics of the two conditions and the large set of uncorrelated stimuli.

Keywords: human; mass perception; motor programming; precision grip; sensorimotor integration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological*
  • Gravitation
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Lifting
  • Male
  • Psychophysics
  • Weight Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult