Errors in judging information about reflections in mirrors.

Rebecca Lawson, University of Liverpool

Marco Bertamini, University of Liverpool

We investigated people's perception and knowledge of planar mirror reflections. People were accurate at deciding when they could first see their reflection as they approached a mirror from the side, but only if their reflection was visible. Most people stopped too early if the mirror was covered up. People also overestimated the size of the reflection of their face on the surface of a mirror if they were shown a covered mirror. Their accuracy improved somewhat if their reflection was visible but, unlike the first task, they still made striking errors. Perceptual feedback thus improved performance at predicting the behaviour of mirror reflections in both tasks but failed to eliminate errors in the second task. The overestimation of reflection size was not face-specific as it generalised to novel stimuli (paper ellipses) and it was found with both a matching response and for verbal size estimations. The early error in the first task appears to be due to an inaccurate belief that can be overridden by perceptual feedback. The overestimation in the second task is primarily caused by a powerful size-constancy effect.

Perception, (2006), 35, 1265-1288.