Everyday scale errors


Elizabeth A. Ware, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, USA; e-mail: eaware@umich.edu


Young children occasionally make scale errors– they attempt to fit their bodies into extremely small objects or attempt to fit a larger object into another, tiny, object. For example, a child might try to sit in a dollhouse-sized chair or try to stuff a large doll into it. Scale error research was originally motivated by parents’ and researchers’ informal accounts of these behaviors. However, scale errors have only been documented using laboratory procedures designed to promote their occurrence. To formally document the occurrence of scale errors in everyday settings, we posted a survey on the internet. Across two studies, participants reported many examples of everyday scale errors that are similar to those observed in our labs and were committed by children of the same age. These findings establish that scale errors occur in the course of children’s daily lives, lending further support to the account that these behaviors stem from general aspects of visual processing.