Subjective scaling of smooth surface friction

J Neurophysiol. 1996 May;75(5):1957-62. doi: 10.1152/jn.1996.75.5.1957.


1. Six men and four women, 30-51 yr of age, were asked to use the tip of the washed and dried index finger to stroke six different featureless, flat surfaces mounted on a three-dimensional force platform. The six surfaces were rosin-coated glass, glass, satin-finished aluminum, poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, Teflon, and nyloprint (polyamide plastic). The subjects were requested to indicate where the sensation produced by each surface should be placed on an unidimensional scale represented by an 18cm line labeled at one end by the words "most slippery" and at the other end by the words "most sticky." The coefficients of friction for each surface and for each subject were subsequently assessed by asking each subject to stroke the surfaces as if they were assessing its slipperiness for 5 s. 2. The finger forces normal and tangential to the stroked surfaces were digitized at 250 Hz and stored on a laboratory computer. The ratio of the mean tangential force to the mean perpendicular force during stroking was used to calculate the mean coefficient of kinetic friction. The mean friction for all subjects ranged from 0.43 for the nyloprint surface to 2.79 for the rosin-coated glass. Correlation coefficients calculated between the subjective estimates of friction and the measured coefficients of friction for each subject individually resulted in a mean correlation of 0.85 (n = 10, P < 0.001). 3. These data indicate that subjects can accurately scale relative differences in the friction of macroscopically smooth, flat surfaces, by modulating the tangential force applied to the finger while keeping the normal force relatively constant. The fact that subjects maintained a relatively constant normal force and instead varied the tangential force across different surfaces suggests that receptors sensitive to these tangential forces are important in the perception of smooth surface friction.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Friction*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surface Properties
  • Touch / physiology*