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Surface texture can bias tactile form perception


The sense of touch is believed to provide a reliable perception of the object’s properties; however, our tactile perceptions could be illusory at times. A recently reported tactile illusion shows that a raised form can be perceived as indented when it is surrounded by textured areas. This phenomenon suggests that the form perception can be influenced by the surface textures in its adjacent areas. As perception of texture and that of form have been studied independently of each other, the present study examined whether textures, in addition to the geometric edges, contribute to the tactile form perception. We examined the perception of the flat and raised contact surface (3.0 mm width) with various heights (0.1, 0.2, 0.3 mm), which had either textured or non-textured adjacent areas, under the static, passive and active touch conditions. Our results showed that texture decreased the raised perception of the surface with a small height (0.1 mm) and decreased the flat perception of the physically flat surface under the passive and active touch conditions. We discuss a possible mechanism underlying the effect of the textures on the form perception based on previous neurophysiological findings.

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We would like to thank Ai Koizumi for her comments on the earlier drafts. The authors also thank María Oyarzábal, Christopher R. Wagner, Ryan A. Beasley and Douglas P. Perrin for their insightful discussions.

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Correspondence to Masashi Nakatani.

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Nakatani, M., Howe, R.D. & Tachi, S. Surface texture can bias tactile form perception. Exp Brain Res 208, 151–156 (2011).

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  • Tactile perception
  • Tactile illusion
  • Fingerpad
  • Shape perception
  • Geometric form perception