Systematic spatial distortion of quantitative estimates

Samuel Shaki, Martin H. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Magnitude estimation has been studied since the beginnings of scientific psychology and constitutes a fundamental aspect of human behavior. Yet, it has apparently never been noticed that estimates depend on the spatial arrangement used. We tested 167 adults in three experiments to show that the spatial layout of stimuli and responses systematically distorts number estimation, length production, and weight reproduction performance. The direction of distortion depends on the observer’s counting habits, but does not seem to reflect the use of spatially associated number concepts. Our results imply that all quantitative estimates are contaminated by a “spell of space” whenever stimuli or responses are spatially distributed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2177-2185
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2021


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