Symmetry in haptic and in visual shape perception

Percept Psychophys. 1998 Apr;60(3):389-404. doi: 10.3758/bf03206862.


Four experiments tested the hypothesis that bilateral symmetry is an incidental encoding property in vision, but can also be elicited as an incidental effect in touch, provided that sufficient spatial reference information is available initially for haptic inputs to be organized spatially. Experiment 1 showed that symmetry facilitated processing in vision, even though the task required judgments of stimulus closure rather than the detection of symmetry. The same task and stimuli failed to show symmetry effects in tactual scanning by one finger (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 found facilitating effects for vertically symmetric open stimuli, although not for closed patterns, in two-forefinger exploration when the forefingers had previously been aligned to the body midaxis to provide body-centered spatial reference. The one-finger exploration condition again failed to show symmetry effects. Experiment 4 replicated the facilitating effects of symmetry for open symmetric shapes in tactual exploration by the two (previously aligned) forefingers. Closed shapes again showed no effect. Spatial-reference information, finger movements, and stimulus factors in shape perception by touch are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Reaction Time
  • Touch / physiology*