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Did you know that perceptual constancy assists you in identifying objects under changing conditions? Learn more about perceptual constancy from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Perceptual Constancy Defined

Perceptual constancy refers to the tendency to perceive an object you are familiar with as having a constant shape, size, and brightness despite the stimuli changes that occur. But what does this really mean?Suppose you are at a neighborhood bus stop with a friend. You see the bus as it turns the corner a few blocks away.

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From a distance, the bus looks like a mere dot in your field of vision. You put up your palm and notice that you can cover the entire area of the bus with your palm. As the bus approaches the stop, it begins to take up more and more of your field of vision. Your palm no longer covers the area of the bus.

By the time the bus reaches the stop, you realize that the bus is twice as tall as you. Despite the fact that the bus now takes up a majority of your field of vision, you don’t perceive the bus as having grown. You know that the bus has the same size, rectangular shape, and brightness now as it did when you saw it in the distance. The reason you know this is due to perceptual constancy.

Even though the image of the bus gets bigger in size, you have enough experiences with buses to know that the actual size of the bus remains constant.

You are able to perceive the size of the bus as stable even though the features of the bus continually change in your field of vision. It is perceptual constancy that allows you to identify objects under different conditions, as you mentally reconstruct images of these objects. For example, the bus appears to be the same size in sunlight during the summer, as well as during a dark, snowy, evening in the winter.Perceptual constancy can be reduced if you are not very familiar with the object, or if there is a decrease in the number of environmental cues to assist with the object’s identification. So what are the different types of perceptual constancies?

Types of Perceptual Constancy: Shape, Size, and Brightness

  • Size constancy: Within a certain range, objects are perceived to remain the same size regardless of changes in the size of the retinal image or distance.

    For example, no matter how far away from you a door is, you still perceive it as having a constant size.

  • Shape constancy: No matter the changes in an object’s position or orientation, the shape of the object will be perceived as constant. No matter if that door is in a closed or open position, we still perceive it as having a rectangular shape.
Perpetual constancy: familiar object – constant shape
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Perceptual constancy the tendency to perceive an object you are familiar with as having a constant shape, size, and brightness despite the stimuli changes that occur
Size constancy within a certain range, objects are perceived to remain the same size regardless of changes in the size of the retinal image or distance
Shape constancy no matter the changes in an object’s position or orientation, the shape of the object will be perceived as constant

Learning Outcomes

View the lesson and take the time to subsequently:

  • Define perpetual constancy
  • List and expound upon the types of perceptual constancy

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