The Psychology of Touch

By Morton A. Heller; William Schiff | Go to book overview

PART II
DEVELOPMENT AND INTERMODAL RELATIONS

How should we understand the relationship between the senses of touch and vision? David Warren and Matt Rossano have argued that we need to understand the influence of vision on touch in order to gain a proper understanding of the sense of touch. The relationship between the senses turns out to be rather complicated, and changes over the course of development, as Bushnell and Boudreau point out.

Much of our knowledge about stimuli derives from input from more than one sense (see Heller, 1982). It is certainly possible to blindfold subjects (and mask sound with headphones or white noise) in a laboratory to study the sense of touch. This control methodology is clearly the dominant sort of research paradigm. However, sighted people often see the things they touch, and hear the sound of fingers in contact with objects. We visually monitor hand movements as we explore the environment. In addition, we can hear the sound of a fingernail or fingertip tapping on a surface. Contact with wood sounds different from contact with metal, and this auditory input can aid in the identification of surface characteristics, such as texture (e.g., Lederman, 1979).

There are a number of possible statements that might characterize the relations between the senses, and Warren and Rossano discuss these alternatives at length. Vision may dominate touch when discrepant information is presented to the two modalities. The most common method for inducing a discrepancy between the senses has involved manipulating vision of an object with a lens. This was the approach used by Rock and Victor ( 1964). They

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