Tops are more salient than bottoms

Kenneth W. Chambers, Michael McBeath, Diane J. Schiano, Eric G. Metz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Past research has verified that observers assume that objects are reliably oriented with respect to a gravitationally centered coordinate system. Observers also appear to attend more to specific parts of objects, like faces, that typically are closer to the top. In the present work, we explored whether or not observers have a generic bias to view tops as being more salient than bottoms. In three experiments, observers indicated whether random shapes appeared to be more similar to comparison shapes that shared identical tops rather than bottoms. Observers exhibited a reliable tendency to match figures with similarly shaped tops. Matching choice was also a function of global shape attributes such as axis of elongation or size. The findings are consistent with the notion that, in nature, tops tend to be the most visible part and to provide the best information with respect to important aspects of objects such as animal intentionality and artifact functionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-635
Number of pages11
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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