Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 143–152 | Cite as

Scenario-based touching: on the influence of top-down processes on tactile and visual appreciation

  • Martina Jakesch
  • Martina Zachhuber
  • Helmut Leder
  • Mark Spingler
  • Claus-Christian Carbon
Original Paper


The aim was to propose a testing procedure that allows measuring ecological valid judgments as a tool for selecting e.g. surface materials in the design process. Precise measures are essential for evaluation processes for example in design research and applied studies. Contextual effects in form of top-down processes often lead to biases in measures such as quality or liking judgments. We examined contextual effects of such factors by varying specific instructions, which were based on everyday life scenarios. We also investigated the stability and ecological validity of evaluations with the focus on a multisensory approach involving vision plus touch, touch-only and vision-only conditions. Participants evaluated the materials, for preference in experiment 1, and for perceived material properties (thermal conductivity, hardness and roughness) in experiment 2—either with or without specific instructions. Results showed higher consistency in the vision plus touch condition than in the unimodal conditions. Moreover, preferences and perceived material properties strongly varied according to the presence and the content of instruction (scenarios). These results demonstrate the strong impact of top-down processes on tactile as well as visual judgments.


Design evaluation Haptics Tactile perception Visual appreciation Multisensory perception Sensotact reference frame 



This research was supported by a URP (University Research Program) Award to CCC and HL by the Henry Ford Foundation, Dearborn, USA (Award Number 20059015). We would like to thank the participants for taking part in the study, and the Ford Forschungszentrum Aachen (FFA) for providing the Sensotact V2 and V3 reference frames. We would also like to thank our student co-workers for their support in testing and three anonymous reviewers and the editors, Petra Badke-Schaub and Yoram Reich, for their valuable hints for extending and improving the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martina Jakesch
    • 1
  • Martina Zachhuber
    • 1
  • Helmut Leder
    • 1
  • Mark Spingler
    • 2
  • Claus-Christian Carbon
    • 3
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Ford Forschungszentrum AachenAachenGermany
  3. 3.Department of General Psychology and MethodologyUniversity of BambergBambergGermany

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