Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

The Failure to Detect Tactile Change: A Tactile Analogue of Visual Change Blindness

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

The Failure to Detect Tactile Change: A Tactile Analogue of Visual Change Blindness

Article excerpt

A large body of empirical research now shows that people are surprisingly poor at detecting significant changes in visually presented scenes. This phenomenon is known as change blindness in vision. A similar phenomenon occurs in audition, but to date no such effect has been documented in touch. In the present study, we explored the ability of people to detect changes introduced between two consecutively presented vibrotactile patterns presented over the body surface. The patterns consisted of two or three vibrotactile stimuli presented for 200 msec. The position of one of the vibrotactile stimuli composing the display was repeatedly changed (alternating between two different positions) on 50% of the trials, but the same pattern was presented repeatedly on the remaining trials. Three conditions were investigated: No interval between the patterns, an empty interval between the patterns, and a masked interval between the patterns. Change detection was near perfect in the no-interval block. Performance deteriorated somewhat in the empty-interval block, but by far the worst change detection performance occurred in the masked-interval block. These results demonstrate that "change blindness" can also affect tactile perception.

Adaptation theories suggest that the senses evolved to detect salient changes in the environment, thereby facilitating appropriate behavioral responses (see, e.g., Downar, Crawley, Mikulis, & Davis, 2000). However, a large body of research over the last half century has revealed that people appear to be surprisingly inept at detecting changes introduced between one visual scene and the next, both in laboratory settings and under more ecologically valid conditions (e.g., DiVita, Obermayer, Nugent, & Linville, 2004; French, 1953; Hochberg, 1968; Rensink, 2002; Simons & Rensink, 2005; Velichkovsky, Dornhoefer, Kopf, Helmert, & Joos, 2002). Research suggests that the frequent failure by participants to detect changes (known as change blindness) is typically caused by the occurrence of some form of disruption (or distraction) that masks the sensory transients that normally draw attention to the location of change (Rensink, O'Regan, & Clark, 1997). Change blindness has been reported within vision and within audition (where the phenomenon has been labeled change deafness; Chan & Spence, 2005; Vitevitch, 2003), but never within touch. It is therefore interesting to study whether limitations in information processing such as change blindness/deafness also affect the processing of tactile stimuli. The possible presence of a tactile analogue of visual change blindness might be suggestive of a common mechanism underlying the various manifestations of change detection, perhaps related to a common "spatial" representation of stimuli, or to the multisensory nature of attention (see, e.g., Becker & Pashler, 2002; Franzen, Markowitz, & Swets, 1970; Rensink et al., 1997; Spence & Driver, 2004).

The last few years have seen a rapid growth of interest in the development and utilization of tactile interfaces in various applied settings (e.g., Bach-y-Rita, 2004; Ho, Tan, & Spence, 2005; Sorkin, 1987; van Erp, 2001; van Erp & van Veen, 2003). In part, this interest reflects the growing belief that the visual and auditory modalities may be overloaded in many real-world settings (Sorkin, 1987; van Veen & van Erp, 2001). If this trend toward using the tac tile modality to convey information to interface operators continues, it will clearly become increasingly important to understand the limitations of the body surface as a means of transmitting information (Spence & Driver, 1999).

In the present study, we explored the ability of people (without specific experience of tactile interfaces) to perceive changes in sequentially presented simple tactile patterns composed of two or three vibrotactile stimuli presented over the body surface. We developed a tactile analogue of the flicker paradigm used in many previous studies of visual change detection, where the changes in successively presented scenes have been shown to be disrupted by the presence of an interleaved mask between the two stimuli (O'Regan, Rensink, & Clark, 1999; Phillips, 1974; Rensink et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.