Visual mediation and the haptic recognition of two-dimensional pictures of common objects

Percept Psychophys. 1990 Jan;47(1):54-64. doi: 10.3758/bf03208164.


A set of three experiments was performed to investigate the role of visual imaging in the haptic recognition of raised-line depictions of common objects. Blindfolded, sighted (Experiment 1) observers performed the task very poorly, while several findings converged to indicate that a visual translation process was adopted. These included (1) strong correlation between image-ability ratings (obtained in Experiment 1 and, independently, in Experiment 2) and both recognition speed and accuracy, (2) superior performance with, and greater ease of imaging, two-dimensional as opposed to three-dimensional depictions, despite equivalence in rated line complexity, and (3) a significant correlation between the general ability of the observer to image and obtained imageability ratings of the stimulus depictions. That congenitally blind observers performed the same task even more poorly, while their performance did not differ for two- versus three-dimensional depictions (Experiment 3), provides further evidence that visual translation was used by the sighted. Such limited performance is contrasted with the considerable skill with which real common objects are processed and recognized haptically. The reasons for the general difference in the haptic performance of two- versus three-dimensional tasks are considered. Implications for the presentation of spatial information in the form of tangible graphics displays for the blind are also discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Blindness / psychology
  • Cues
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Female
  • Form Perception*
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Stereognosis*