Evidence for the duplex theory of tactile texture perception

Percept Psychophys. 2000 May;62(4):695-705. doi: 10.3758/bf03206916.


Three experiments are reported bearing on Katz's hypothesis that tactile texture perception is mediated by vibrational cues in the case of fine textures and by spatial cues in the case of coarse textures. Psychophysical responses when abrasive surfaces moved across the skin were compared with those obtained during static touch, which does not provide vibrational cues. Experiment 1 used two-interval forced-choice procedures to measure discrimination of surfaces. Fine surfaces that were readily discriminated when moved across the skin became indistinguishable in the absence of movement; coarse surfaces, however, were equally discriminable in moving and stationary conditions. This was shown not to result from any inherently greater difficulty of fine-texture discrimination. Experiments 2 and 3 used free magnitude estimation to obtain a more comprehensive picture of the effect of movement on texture (roughness) perception. Without movement, perception was seriously degraded (the psychophysical magnitude function was flattened) for textures with element sizes below 100 microns; above this point, however, the elimination of movement produced an overall decrease in roughness, but not in the slope of the magnitude function. Thus, two components of stimulation (presumably vibrational and spatial) contribute to texture perception, as Katz maintained; mechanisms for responding to the latter appear to be engaged at texture element sizes down to 100 microns, a surprisingly small value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Vibration