Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 842–854

Pacinian representations of fine surface texture


DOI: 10.3758/BF03193537

Cite this article as:
Bensmaïa, S. & Hollins, M. Perception & Psychophysics (2005) 67: 842. doi:10.3758/BF03193537


Subjects were presented with pairs of finely textured stimuli and were instructed to rate their dissimilarity, using free magnitude estimation. The subjects also rated the stimuli along each of four textural continua: roughness, hardness, stickiness, and warmth. In subsequent experimental sessions, we used a Hall effect transducer to measure the vibrations produced in the subjects’ fingertip skin as the stimuli were scanned across it. We wished to assess the extent to which the perceptual dissimilarity of the textures could be explained in terms of the perceptual dissimilarity of the vibrations they elicited in the skin. To that end, we invoked a model characterizing the Pacinian representation of a vibratory stimulus. From the model, we computed the difference in the vibratory representations of the two stimuli in each pair. We found that the bulk of the variance in perceived dissimilarity of the textures was accounted for by differences in the Pacinian representations of the vibrations they produced. Our results further suggested that the textural information conveyed by the Pacinian system concerns surface roughness and, possibly, stickiness.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North CarolinaChapel Hill
  2. 2.Mind/Brain InstituteJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore