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Is perception affected by sequencing?Science project video

Abstract

There have been a number of studies on how differences in magnitude and the sequence in which they are experienced can affect perception. Imagine there are two balls. One of the balls weighs 6 ounces, while the second ball weights 16 ounces. You are told to estimate the weight of each ball. If you first pick up the smaller ball, your estimate will most likely be more accurate than if you picked up the larger ball first. The larger magnitude, be it weight, height, cost, or temperature, will make the smaller magnitude seem proportionally smaller than it actually is. The opposite is true as well. A smaller magnitude will make the larger magnitude appear larger than it is. In this experiment you will demonstrate this phenomenon in experimental conditions.

Objective

Demonstrate how differences in magnitude are distorted by the sequence in which they are experienced.

Scientific Terms

Perception, Psychology, Contrast

Background

This phenomenon where the difference in magnitude is distorted by the sequence in which they are experienced occurs in numerous ways in everyday life. Imagine that you are looking to buy a suit. Sales people know that you are less likely to purchase a tie if you do not buy a suit first. By purchasing the suit first, the tie will appear to be less of an expense. If you dip your hand in cold water, followed by dipping your hand in tepid water, the cold water will seem colder than if you first dip your hand in the tepid water first. This phenomenon is even found in physical attractiveness. A person of average looks will appear more attractive if he or she is next to someone who is less attractive. There is a story about a girl who arrives home from school with a bad report card. When her parents ask her how her day was, she tells them that the school nurse wants her to go to the hospital as the nurse suspects that she may have contracted tuberculosis. The parents become deeply worried until the daughter tells them that she was joking, that she is fine; however, she did get a bad report card. The parents? reaction to her "joke" reduced their emotional intensity toward the bad report card.

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