Haptic Aftereffect of Softness
Past sensory experience can influence present perception. We studied the effect of adaptation in haptic softness perception. Participants compared two silicon rubber stimuli, a reference and a comparison stimulus, by indenting them simultaneously with the index fingers of their two hands and decided which one felt softer. In adaptation conditions the index finger that explored the reference stimulus had previously been adapted to another rubber stimulus. The adaptation stimulus was indented 5 times with a force of >15 N, thus the two index fingers had a different sensory past. In baseline conditions there was no previous adaptation. We measured the Points of Subjective Equality (PSEs) of one reference stimulus to a set of comparison stimuli. We used four different adaptation stimuli, one was harder, two were softer and one had approximately the same compliance as compared to the reference stimulus. PSEs shifted as a function of the compliance of the adaptation stimulus: the reference was perceived to be softer when the finger had been adapted to a harder stimulus and it was perceived to be harder after adaptation to a softer stimulus. We conclude that recent sensory experience causes a shift of haptically perceived softness away from the softness of the adaptation stimulus. The finding that perceived softness is susceptible to adaptation suggests that there might be neural channels tuned to different softness values and softness is an independent primary perceptual quality.
KeywordsSoftness Stiffness Haptic Tactile Perception Adaptation Aftereffect
This work was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB/TRR 135, A5).
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