A balancing act: Physical balance, through arousal, influences size perception

Michael N. Geuss
Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, William & Mary
Nicholas R. Stevens, William & Mary


Previous research has demonstrated that manipulating vision influences balance. Here, we question whether manipulating balance can influence vision and how it may influence vision specifically, the perception of width. In Experiment 1, participants estimated the width of beams while balanced and unbalanced. When unbalanced, participants judged the widths to be smaller. One possible explanation is that unbalanced participants did not view the stimulus as long as when balanced because they were focused on remaining balanced. In Experiment 2, we tested this notion by limiting viewing time. Experiment 2 replicated the findings of Experiment 1, but viewing time had no effect on width judgments. In Experiment 3, participants' level of arousal was manipulated, because the balancing task likely produced arousal. While jogging, participants judged the beams to be smaller. In Experiment 4, participants completed another arousing task (counting backward by sevens) that did not involve movement. Again, participants judged the beams to be smaller when aroused. Experiment 5A raised participants' level of arousal before estimating the board widths (to control for potential dual-task effects) and showed that heightened arousal still influenced perceived width of the boards. Collectively, heightened levels of arousal, caused by multiple manipulations (including balance), influenced perceived width.