A new illusion of height and width: Taller people are perceived as thinner

Diane M. Beck, Barbara Emanuele, Silvia Savazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly said that tall people look thinner. Here, we asked whether an illusion exists such that the taller of two equally wide stimuli looks thinner, and conversely whether the thinner of two equally tall stimuli looks taller. In five experiments, participants judged the horizontal or vertical extents of two identical bodies, rectangles, or cylinders that differed only in their vertical or horizontal extents. Our results confirmed the folk wisdom that being tall makes you look thinner. We similarly found that being thin makes you look taller, although this effect was less pronounced. The same illusion was present for filled rectangles and cylinders, but it was consistently stronger for both photographs and silhouettes of the human body, raising the question of why the human form should be more prone to this illusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1154-1160
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Body image
  • Body shape
  • Integral dimensions
  • Visual illusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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