The surface-weight illusion: on the contribution of grip force to perceived heaviness

Percept Psychophys. 1999 Jan;61(1):23-30. doi: 10.3758/bf03211946.


Previous psychophysical studies have shown that an object, lifted with a precision grip, is perceived as being heavier when its surface is smooth than when it is rough. Three experiments were conducted to assess whether this surface-weight illusion increases with object weight, as a simple fusion model suggests. Experiment 1 verified that grip force increases more steeply with object weight for smooth objects than for rough ones. In Experiment 2, subjects rated the weight of smooth and rough objects. Smooth objects were judged to be heavier than rough ones; however, this effect did not increase with object weight. Experiment 3 employed a different psychophysical method and replicated this additive effect, which argues strongly against the simple fusion model. The whole pattern of results is consistent with a weighted fusion model in which the sensation of grip force contributes only partially to the perceived heaviness of a lifted object.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Form Perception*
  • Hand Strength*
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Male
  • Psychophysics
  • Surface Properties
  • Weight Perception*