The Psychology of Touch

By Morton A. Heller; William Schiff | Go to book overview
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PART
I
SENSORY PHENOMENA

In this section the authors begin the analysis of the psychology of touch by considering it in the classical manner, that is, as a proximal sense delivering a variety of sensations (e.g., pressure, pain, warmth) to the CNS as receptors or sets of receptors are activated by stimulus energies. Such a view of touch conceptualizes the questions surrounding our knowledge of the world via touch primarily as a set of problems concerned with how a neural transduction system constrains and converts energies and events occurring at environment-organism interfaces into neural codes to be analyzed by the brain. While this is not the only possible way to conceptualize the fundamental basis for tactual/haptic perception (e.g., see Gibson, 1966) it is the one adopted by the majority of psychologists, and virtually all sensory physiologists.

Cholewiak and Collins begin this first stage of classical psychophysical analysis in an examination of the anatomy and physiology of the skin, broached by the authors in a fine-grained examination of the skin-structures mediating touch. In so doing, they sometimes depart from a purely "punctate" psychophysical approach to analyze physical forces acting on the skin in a more global form, for example, via a wave model. The somatosensory cortex and its "homunculus" are explored in detail, and we emerge with a fascinating account of an extraordinarily complex set of structures and functions. We realize how complex and resistant to simple formulation and explication the "simple" skin senses really are.

Stevens approaches the topic of thermal sensibility from a functional point of view, that is, the regulation of body temperature so as to avoid harm to

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