The Psychology of Touch

By Morton A. Heller; William Schiff | Go to book overview
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Stuart Appelle State University of New York, College at Brockport


According to a book containing the proceedings of an international symposium on "active touch" ( Gordon, 1978), this expression and the concepts underlying it "have a long and honorable history." Yet, most of the book's own contents actually have little or nothing to do with tactual activity per se. Elsewhere, a chapter on haptics ( Kennedy, 1978) defines its subject as "a conceptual enterprise" seeking to distinguish characteristics of "touch," "contact," and "exploration," and the editors of a volume on "tactual perception" ( Schiff & Foulke, 1982) make distinctions among "tactile," "tactual," and "haptic." Still another review ( Loomis & Lederman, 1986) classifies "tactual modes" into five separate categories of tactile, active and passive kinesthetic, and active and passive haptic events.

This proliferation of terms, and their various uses by different investigators, tells us something about our current understanding and our approaches to understanding how the manipulation of objects leads to object perception. Under normal conditions, this manipulation is neither exclusively active nor passive (the hand makes numerous starts and stops during object inspection) and is neither exclusively cutaneous (skin stimulation without muscle stimulation) nor kinesthetic (muscle stimulation without skin stimulation). These components of touch can be separated experimentally and experientially, but in the normal process of touching all are involved. If we are to understand the perception of objects by manipulation, we may examine contribu


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