People can perceive the individual features of an object by focusing attention on it and binding the features together at a location. Some perceptual processing can occur without focusing attention on each object, though; people may even be able to extract summary information about the sizes of all the objects in a display, essentially computing the mean size at a glance. Evidence that people can judge the mean size of an array efficiently and accurately has been used to support the strong claim that people use a global, parallel process to extract a statistical summary of the average size of the objects in the display. Such claims are based both on the accuracy of performance and on the supposition that performance exceeds what would be possible with serial, focused attention. However, these studies typically have not examined the limits of performance with focused-attention strategies. Through experiments and simulations, we show that existing evidence for mean size perception can be explained through various focused-attention strategies, without appealing to a new mechanism of average size perception. Although our evidence does not eliminate the possibility that people do perceive the average size of all the objects in a display, it suggests that simpler mechanisms can accommodate the existing data.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Sensory Systems
- General Psychology