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Symmetry in haptic and in visual shape perception

Abstract

Four experiments tested the hypothesis that bilateral symmetry is an incidental encoding property in vision, but can also be elicited as an incidental effect in touch, provided that sufficient spatial reference information is available initially for haptic inputs to be organized spatially. Experiment 1 showed that symmetry facilitated processing in vision, even though the task required judgments of stimulus closure rather than the detection of symmetry. The same task and stimuli failed to show symmetry effects in tactual scanning by one finger (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 found facilitating effects for vertically symmetric open stimuli, although not for closed patterns, in two-forefinger exploration when the fore-fingers had previously been aligned to the body midaxis to provide body-centered spatial reference. The one-finger exploration condition again failed to show symmetry effects. Experiment 4 replicated the facilitating effects of symmetry for open symmetric shapes in tactual exploration by the two (previously aligned) forefingers. Closed shapes again showed no effect. Spatial-reference information, finger movements, and stimulus factors in shape perception by touch are discussed.

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Correspondence to Soledad Ballesteros or Susanna Millar.

Additional information

The research was also supported in part by research Grants DGICYT PB90-0003 and DGICYT PB94-0393 to S.B. and a UNED Graduate Fellowship to J.M.R. It was also supported in part by a research grant to S.M. from the British organization Blindness: Research for Learning, Work and Leisure, which is gratefully acknowledged. We thank D. Ortega for scoring the finger movements.

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Ballesteros, S., Millar, S. & Reales, J.M. Symmetry in haptic and in visual shape perception. Perception & Psychophysics 60, 389–404 (1998). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03206862

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Keywords

  • Bilateral Symmetry
  • Open Shape
  • Body Midline
  • Closed Shape
  • Symmetry Effect