There's a specification on (d)SLR bodies called viewfinder magnification; this refers to how large an object appears in the viewfinder when a 50mm lens is mounted and focused at infinity.
On mid-range DSLRs, which typically have around 0.95x magnification, an object will appear to be life-sized at 52.6mm. With entry-level DSLRs, you might have around 0.8x magnification, so you'd have to zoom in to 62.5mm to get a 1:1 magnification. I'm betting your camera has somewhere around 0.9 to 0.95x magnification.
This has very little to do with the object, except that the front of the camera is slightly closer to the object. With far-away subjects (landscapes, etc), the distance between your eyes and the front of your camera won't matter much, but close subjects will appear larger to the camera than to your eye even with a 1:1 magnification.