Is an ant larger than a lion?

Orly Rubinsten, Avishai Henik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


In order to examine the influence exerted by an irrelevant semantic variable in a comparative judgment task, we employed a Stroop-like paradigm. The stimuli were pairs of animal names that were different in their physical and semantic sizes (e.g., ant lion). Participants were asked to judge which of the two words was larger either in physical or in semantic size. Size congruity effect (i.e., faster reaction times with congruent than with incongruent stimuli) appeared in both semantic and physical judgments. The semantic distance effect (i.e., large semantic distances are processed faster than smaller ones), appeared only when the semantic dimension was relevant to the task. The findings indicate that when a word (animal name) is presented, its meaning is accessed automatically. Part of this meaning (at least with our stimuli) relates to the size of the animal in real life. Processing of meaning of the size of the words is carried out in parallel with the extraction of the physical features of the presented stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-154
Number of pages14
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2002


  • Automaticity
  • Physical size
  • Semantic size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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