, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 531-550
Date: 09 Nov 2010

The development and validation of sensory and emotional scales of touch perception


No comprehensive language exists that describes the experience of touch. Three experiments were conducted to take steps toward establishing a touch lexicon. In Experiment I, 49 participants rated how well 262 adjectives described sensory, emotional and evaluative aspects of touch. In Experiment II, participants rated pairwise dissimilarities of the most descriptive words of the set. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) solutions representing semantic–perceptual spaces underlying the words resulted in a touch perception task (TPT) consisting of 26 ‘sensory’ attributes (e.g., bumpiness) and 14 ‘emotional’ attributes (e.g., pleasurable). In Experiment III, 40 participants used the TPT to rate unseen textured materials that were moved actively or received passively against the index fingerpad, volar forearm, and two underarm sites. MDS confirmed similar semantic–perceptual structures in Experiments II and III. Factor analysis of Experiment III data decomposed the sensory attribute ratings into factors labeled Roughness, Slip, Pile and Firmness, and the emotional attribute ratings into Comfort and Arousal factors. Factor scores varied among materials and sites. Greater intensity of sensory and emotional responses were reported when participants passively, as opposed to actively, received stimuli. The sensitivity of the TPT in identifying body site and mode of touch-related perceptual differences affirms the validity and utility of this novel linguistic/perceptual tool.