Magnitude comparisons distort mental representations of magnitude

Jessica M. Choplin, John E. Hummel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many cognitive processes rely on representations of magnitude, yet these representations are often malleable (H. Helson, 1964; J. Huttenlocher, L. V. Hedges, & J. L. Vevea, 2000; A. Parducci, 1965). It is likely that factors that affect these representations in turn affect the psychological processes that rely on them. The authors conducted 4 experiments to investigate whether language-expressible magnitude comparisons distort mental representations of compared magnitudes. Participants compared magnitudes and estimated those magnitudes in a variety of tasks. Experiments 1 through 3 demonstrated systematic comparison-induced distortions. Experiment 4 demonstrated that comparison-induced distortions might account for the asymmetric dominance effect discussed in the decision-making literature. Potential effects of comparison-induced distortions on other psychological processes (e.g., density effects, order effects, body-size estimation, pain estimation, and consumer decision making) are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-286
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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