2007 volume 36(11) pages 1709 – 1711
doi:10.1068/p5854

Cite as:
Wagman J B, Zimmerman C, Sorric C, 2007, "“Which feels heavier—a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?'' A potential perceptual basis of a cognitive riddle" Perception 36(11) 1709 – 1711

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“Which feels heavier—a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?'' A potential perceptual basis of a cognitive riddle

Jeffrey B Wagman, Corinne Zimmerman, Christopher Sorric

Abstract. “Which weighs more—a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?'' The seemingly naive answer to the familiar riddle is the pound of lead. The correct answer, of course, is that they weigh the same amount. We investigated whether the naive answer to the riddle might have a basis in perception. When blindfolded participants hefted a pound of lead and a pound of feathers each contained in boxes of identical size, shape, and mass, they reported that the box containing the pound of lead felt heavier at a level above chance. Like the size – weight illusion, the naive answer to the riddle may reflect differences in how easily the objects can be controlled by muscular forces and not a perceptual or cognitive error.

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