Perceptual asymmetries in the somatosensory system: a dichhaptic experiment and critical review of the literature from 1929 to 1986

Cortex. 1990 Jun;26(2):201-26. doi: 10.1016/s0010-9452(13)80351-6.


Dichhaptic matching of 3-D nonsense shapes was used to assess sex-specific differences in haptics. In an initial object exploration/description phase, strategy was manipulated with instructions to encode each object using either a visual image (which was drawn) or verbal description (tape recorded). These drawings or tape recordings were subsequently used on their own to identify each object. Attempts were made to maintain similarity between the verbal and spatial procedures, to avoid methodological biasing of hand superiorities (e.g., the same number of alternatives and the same presentation times were used). Differences in hand superiority did not, however, result. To obtain a broader perspective, a critical review table was compiled of the entire somatosensory asymmetry literature. Clear patterns emerged for all types of task when results potentially stemming from methodological biases and those based on only certain levels of samples were excluded. Somatosensory perceptual asymmetries are not robust, although hand superiorities are in the predicted direction when they do occur; nevertheless, we find little support for sex-specific asymmetries in these studies. Dichhaptic presentations lack the efficacy of other somatosensory (as well as tachistoscopic) tasks overall, possibly because of the time scale necessary for free haptic exploration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / methods
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Touch / physiology*