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Observation of own exploration movements impairs haptic spatial perception

Abstract

The present study was designed to assess whether the visibility of ones’ own exploratory movements impairs or enhances perceptual speed and precision of haptic stimuli with varying complexity. Previous studies have shown that noninformative vision of steady surroundings improves haptic spatial perception. However, due to the serial nature of haptic processing and limited capacity of working memory resources, we hypothesized that noninformative vision of limb movements may impair haptic perception. The study sample consisted of ninety-eight healthy adults who were randomized into two groups, matched for sex and age. Participants were required to explore two-dimensional haptic stimuli with varying complexity and to recognize them visually. The difference between the two experimental groups was a screen that would prevent the participants from viewing their hands during exploration in the nonobservation condition (NonOb). The other half of participants were able to see their hands in the manual movement observation condition (MovOb) thanks to the special design of the stimuli. As hypothesized, the persons in the MovOb condition made significantly more errors. The difference in error frequency between participants of the MovOb and NonOb condition was greater for complex stimuli than for simple ones. These results suggest that incoming visual information about own manual exploration movements increases competitive pressure for limited working memory resources, and therefore, more recognition errors are made. Covering the hands during exploration may constitute a helpful simplification of the task’s demands by supporting the maintenance of information in working memory. Additionally, the relation of haptic complexity and stimulus characteristics was analyzed.

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Acknowledgments

This research project was supported in part by the Deutsche Forschungsinitiative Eßstörungen (DFE e.V.) and the Haptik-Forschungszentrum. Neither had influence on the preparation of the article nor the conduct of the research.

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Correspondence to Stephanie Mueller.

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Mueller, S., Habermann, S., Dudda, J. et al. Observation of own exploration movements impairs haptic spatial perception. Exp Brain Res 231, 415–423 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-013-3706-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-013-3706-y

Keywords

  • Noninformative vision
  • Working memory resources
  • Limited capacity
  • Sensory integration
  • Tactile touch
  • Stimulus complexity