Weightlifting exercise and the size-weight illusion Academic Article uri icon


  • In the size-weight illusion (SWI), large objects feel lighter than equally weighted small objects. In the present study, we investigated whether this powerful weight illusion could influence real-lift behavior-namely, whether individuals would perform more bicep curls with a dumbbell that felt subjectively lighter than with an identically weighted, but heavier-feeling, dumbbell. Participants performed bicep curls until they were unable to continue with both a large, light-feeling 5-lb dumbbell and a smaller, heavy-feeling 5-lb dumbbell. No differences emerged in the amounts of exercise that participants performed with each dumbbell, even though they felt that the large dumbbell was lighter than the small dumbbell. Furthermore, in a second experiment, we found no differences in how subjectively tired participants felt after exercising for a set time with either dumbbell. We did find, however, differences in the lifting dynamics, such that the small dumbbell was moved at a higher average velocity and peak acceleration. These results suggest that the SWI does not appear to influence exercise outcomes, suggesting that perceptual illusions are unlikely to affect one's ability to persevere with lifting weights.


  • Buckingham, G
  • Byrne, CM
  • Paciocco, J
  • van Eimeren, L
  • Goodale, MA

publication date

  • 2014