Variability leads to overestimation of mean summaries

Yelda Semizer, Aysecan Boduroglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Research on ensemble perception has shown that people can extract both mean and variance information, but much less is understand how these two different types of summaries interact with one another. Some research has argued that people are more erroneous in extracting the mean of displays that have greater variability. In all three experiments, we manipulated the variability in the displays. Participants reported the mean size of a set of circles (Experiment 1) and mean length of horizontally placed (Experiment 2a) and randomly oriented lines (Experiment 2b). In all experiments, we found that mean size estimations were more erroneous for higher than smaller variance displays. More critically, there was a tendency to overestimate the mean, driven by variance in both task-relevant and task-irrelevant features. We discuss these findings in relation to limitations in concurrent summarization ability and outlier discounting in ensemble perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1129-1140
Number of pages12
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Ensemble perception
  • Overestimation
  • Summary statistics
  • Variance


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