, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 161-171
Date: 26 Jul 2002

Audiotactile interactions in roughness perception

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Abstract

The sounds produced when we touch textured surfaces frequently provide information regarding the structure of those surfaces. It has recently been demonstrated that the perception of the texture of the hands can be modified simply by manipulating the frequency content of such touch-related sounds. We investigated whether similar auditory manipulations change people’s perception of the roughness of abrasive surfaces (experiment 1). Participants were required to make speeded, forced-choice discrimination responses regarding the roughness of a series of abrasive samples which they touched briefly. Analysis of discrimination errors verified that tactile roughness perception was modulated by the frequency content of the auditory feedback. Specifically, attenuating high frequencies led to a bias towards an increased perception of tactile smoothness. In experiment 2, we replicated the rubbing-hands manipulation of previous experimenters while participants rated either the perceived roughness or wetness of their hands. The wetness scale data replicated the results in the literature, while the roughness scale data replicated the result from experiment 1. A final experiment showed that delaying the auditory feedback from the hand-rubbing reduced the magnitude of this parchment-skin illusion. These experiments demonstrate the dramatic effect that auditory frequency manipulations can have on the perceived tactile roughness and moistness of surfaces, and are consistent with the proposal that different auditory perceptual dimensions may have varying salience for different surfaces.