Haptic perception of spatial relations

Perception. 1999;28(6):781-95. doi: 10.1068/p2930.


There are some indications that haptic space like visual space is not Euclidean (e.g. Blumenfeld, 1937 Acta Psychologica 2 125-174). In a series of experiments, we investigated the haptic perception of spatial relations in a systematic way. We restricted ourselves to a horizontal plane at waist height. Blindfolded subjects were asked to perform three tasks with their right hand: (i) a reference bar was presented under four different orientations and subjects were asked to rotate a test bar such that it felt to be parallel to the reference bar; (ii) subjects had to rotate two test bars in such a way that they felt collinear; (iii) subjects had to point a test bar in the direction of a marker. Bars and marker could appear at nine different locations. In all experiments large systematic deviations (up to 40 degrees) were made. The deviations strongly correlated with horizontal (right-left) but not with vertical (forward-backward) distance. Subjects showed qualitatively identical trends but the size of the deviations was strongly subject-dependent. In addition, a significant haptic oblique effect was found. These results provide strong evidence that haptic space in non-Euclidean.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Psychological Tests
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Touch*