Comparison of two psychophysical methods across visual and haptic perception of stand-on-ability

  • Alen HajnalEmail author
  • Catalina X. Olavarria
  • Tyler Surber
  • Joseph D. Clark
  • Jonathan K. Doyon
Original Article


Recent research (Hajnal et al. in Perception 45(7):768–786, 2016) found apparent differences between haptic and visual perception of the affordance of stand-on-ability. One reason for this discrepancy might be the imprecision of the measurement method. We compared the psychophysical method of adjustment with a dynamic staircase method of stimulus presentation in an affordance task. Three groups of participants either visually inspected a flat sturdy sloped ramp, placed one foot onto the ramp occluded from view, or placed one foot on the ramp while allowed to look at it, in the visual, haptic, or multimodal condition, respectively. Each trial was presented by moving the ramp up or down until the participant perceived the action boundary, i.e., the steepest slope that still afforded upright stance. After perceptual trials, we measured the actual action boundaries by allowing participants to attempt to stand on the ramp. The action boundary was the average between the lowest false alarm and steepest hit within a 1.5° margin of difference. Visual perception was found to be equivalent with haptic perception. Perceptual and action boundaries were indistinguishable, but only when employing the more precise staircase method. The results support the postulate of equivalence among perceptual systems proposed by Gibson (The senses considered as perceptual systems. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1966), and the idea of correspondence between perception and action which is the cornerstone of affordance theory.



This study was not supported by any funding agency or grant.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Alen Hajnal declares that he has no conflict of interest. Catalina X. Olavarria declares that she has no conflict of interest. Tyler Surber declares that he has no conflict of interest. Joseph D. Clark declares that he has no conflict of interest. Jonathan K. Doyon declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the current studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the current studies.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA

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