Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Transfer of Attunement in Length Perception by Dynamic Touch

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Transfer of Attunement in Length Perception by Dynamic Touch

Article excerpt

Published online: 26 March 2015

© The Author(s) 2015. This article is published with open access at

Abstract Earlier studies have revealed that the calibration of an action sometimes transfers in a functionally specific way-the calibration of one action transfers to other actions that serve the same goal, even when they are performed with different anatomical structures. In the present study, we tested whether attunement (the process by which perceivers learn to detect a more useful, specifying, informational pattern) follows such a functional organization. Participants were trained to perceive the length of rods by dynamic touch with one of their effectors. It was found that training the right hand resulted in an attunement to a specifying variable with both hands, but not with the feet. Training the other limbs did not result in attunement. However, substantial individual differences were found. The implications of the results are explored for theories on the organization of perceptual learning and discussions on individual differences in perception.

Keywords Dynamic touch · Individual differences · Perceptual learning · Transfer

The study of transfer of calibration in perception and action has a long history. Calibration refers to the process that establishes an appropriate scaling of information to perception or action (Bingham & Pagano, 1998; Jacobs & Michaels, 2006; Wagman & Abney, 2013; Withagen & Michaels, 2004). Ever since the seminal work of Helmholtz in the late 19th century, prism studies have been used to induce a calibration (Cohen, 1967;Hamilton,1964). Wearing prisms yields a shift in the visual field and thus requires a rescaling of the optical inforS. mation to the movement. In the second half of the previous century, several studies have tested whether such a recalibration is confined to the exposed limb or transfers to the unexposed limb. Under certain conditions, a transfer of calibration has been found (Cohen, 1967;Hamilton,1964).

Inspired by these findings, Rieser, Pick, Ashmead, and Garing (1995) addressed the question of the organization of calibration. They distinguished the anatomical model from the functional model. The former holds that calibration is confined to the trained anatomical structure, implying that the calibration manifests itself in any behaviour that is performed by this structure. The functional model, on the other hand, states that the calibration of an action transfers to all actions that serve the same goal, irrespective of the bodily structures that are participating in performing the action. This model is based on the principle of motor equivalence (Hebb, 1949; Lashley, 1930)-the same goal can be achieved in different ways in which different anatomical structures are involved. For example, a human-being can locomote by means of walking, side-stepping, crawling, and other movements. The functional model would predict that calibration of one means of achieving a goal would transfer to other means of achieving the same goal, regardless of the anatomical structures involved. During the past decades, the functional model has been put to several tests. Although functionally specific transfer has been observed (Rieser et al. 1995; Stephen & Hajnal, 2011; Withagen & Michaels, 2002, 2004), not all studies found it (Durgin, Fox, & Kim, 2003; Bingham, Pan, & Mon-Williams, 2014; Martin, Keating, Goodkin, Bastian, & Thach, 1996; Withagen & Michaels, 2007). Bingham et al. (2014) explained this discrepancy with his Bmapping theory.^ According to this theory, calibration can be functionally specific, but it also can be confined to a specific limb. B[T]he Mapping Theory predicts that limb specific calibration should be possible because the units are embodied and anatomy contributes to their scaling^ (Bingham et al., 2014,p.61).

As argued by ecological psychologists, calibration is one means by which perception and action can change. …

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