Morton A. Heller Winston-Salem State University
This book is about the sense of touch. Our coverage here runs from details of physiology to matters of communication, cognition, and representation. The psychology of touch includes cutaneous sensitivity, kinesthesis, and haptics. The term haptics incorporates both cutaneous and kinesthetic information ( Revesz, 1950). Through haptics, we obtain information about objects by actively manipulating them, with covariant cutaneous and kinesthetic input ( Gibson, 1966). The 1980s saw vigorous theoretical debate and challenging empirical findings on touch and the range of perceptions it allows. We will survey contemporary thought on these issues. In some instances, the discussion of the evidence and resolution of controversial issues will await later sections of this book. I beg the reader's indulgence in this matter, and urge patience. The interested reader will take a rewarding intellectual journey through the chapters within this volume.
Touch may involve ways of perceiving and representing reality that many people once thought were the exclusive preserve of vision or audition. Only in recent history have people tried to use touch as a channel for reading, speech signals, pictures, and music (via vibration). Some of these ventures have been amazingly successful.
The hand is a remarkable instrument, but it is not the exclusive organ of the sense of touch. If sensations were the source of perceiving, as many have explicitly and implicitly argued, then we can experience tactile sensations with our entire skin surface. If, on the other hand, touching is a set of activities yielding various sorts of information regarding the structure, state,