Human perception of shape from touch

A.M.L. Kappers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper, I focus on the role of active touch in three aspects of shape perception and discrimination studies. First an overview is given of curvature discrimination experiments. The most prominent result is that first-order stimulus information (that is, the difference in attitude or slope over the stimulus) is the dominant factor determining the curvature threshold. Secondly, I compare touch under bimanual and two-finger performance with unimanual and one-finger performance. Consistently, bimanual or two-finger performance turned out to be worse. The most likely explanation for the former finding is that a loss of accuracy during intermanual comparisons is owing to interhemispheric relay. Thirdly, I address the presence of strong after-effects after just briefly touching a shape. These after-effects have been measured and studied in various conditions (such as, static, dynamic, transfer to other hand or finger). Combination of the results of these studies leads to the insight that there are possibly different classes of after-effect: a strong after-effect, caused by immediate contact with the stimulus, that does only partially transfer to the other hand, and one much less strong after-effect, caused by moving over the stimulus for a certain period, which shows a full transfer to other fingers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3106-3114
Number of pages19
JournalPhilosophical transactions / Royal Society of London. Biological sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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