CONCLUSIONS: THE FUTURE OF TOUCH
M. A. Heller W. Schiff
Much progress has been made in the field in the past 10 to 15 years. We have seen a large increase in research on haptics and intermodal relations. We should point out that a great deal remains to be learned. Some theoretical problems have proven amenable to study, yet difficult issues persist. It is likely that we will see considerable progress in the field over the next decade. Some research will be prompted by concerns about application, as in robotic design, while other studies will stem from interests in fundamental theoretical issues.
What message should the reader of this book come away with? There are really many important themes described in this book, but two overriding points stand out. First, any adequate account of touch needs to consider the appropriateness of the level of analysis that is chosen. It is possible to approach a research problem from a sensory, perceptual, or cognitive perspective. All of these approaches are certainly valid. Some researchers have opted to investigate a particular problem from a sensory standpoint, and believe that sensory sorts of explanations may be most parsimonious. Others, however, have pointed out content areas where higher, cognitive processes must be invoked to explain the data. Millar, for example, has noted that it is important to consider a multiplicity of factors to explain the production and recognition of drawings, including the roles of representation, memory, and cognition. An adequate account of vibrotactile pattern recognition may require consideration of higher level cognitive functioning (see chapter by Sherrick, this volume). It is difficult to understand hemispheric laterality ef