Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Expertise Effects in Cutaneous Wind Perception

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Expertise Effects in Cutaneous Wind Perception

Article excerpt

Published online: 21 April 2015

# The Author(s) 2015. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com

Abstract We examined whether expertise effects are present in cutaneous wind perception. To this end, we presented wind stimuli consisting of different wind directions and speeds in a wind simulator. The wind simulator generated wind stimuli from 16 directions and with three speeds by means of eight automotive wind fans. Participants were asked to judge cutaneously perceived wind directions and speeds without having access to any visual or auditory information. Expert sailors (n = 6), trained to make the most effective use of wind characteristics, were compared to less-skilled sailors (n = 6) and to a group of nonsailors (n = 6). The results indicated that expert sailors outperformed nonsailors in perceiving wind direction (i.e., smaller mean signed errors) when presented with low wind speeds. This suggests that expert sailors are more sensitive in picking up differences in wind direction, particularly when confronted with low wind speeds that demand higher sensitivity.

Keywords Wind . Perception . Expertise . Sailing . Psychophysics

In many domains, experts distinguish themselves from novices by their superior performance. These domains include motor performance in sports (e.g., Starkes & Ericsson, 2003) or music (e.g., Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993), cognitive functions such as problem-solving skills (e.g., Sweller, 1988) and memory (e.g., Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995), and perceptual performance such as superior visual information pickup in car driving (e.g., Falkmer & Gregersen, 2005). As concerns experts' perceptual superiority, research has provided ample evidence that expertise effects exist for the various sensory modalities. For example, it is well established that experts show superior visual perception (Mann, Williams, Ward, & Janelle, 2007), auditory perception (e.g., Koelsch, Schröger, & Tervaniemi, 1999), and olfactory perception (e.g., Parr, Heatherbell, & White, 2002)whencomparedto novices. Despite the growing knowledge of expertise effects in several sensory modalities, relatively little is known about the impact of expertise on haptic perception, and in particular, cutaneous perception by means of touch receptors within the skin (for a review, see Lederman & Klatzky, 2009).

Studies on cutaneous perception have thus far mainly focused on examining the mechanisms underlying, for instance, the cutaneous perception of pain (e.g., Chapman & Jones, 1944; Sheffield, Biles, Orom, Maixner, & Sheps, 2000), tactile sensibility (e.g., Lederman & Klatzky, 2009; Vallbo & Johansson, 1984), or the cutaneous perception of heat (e.g., Casey, Minoshima, Morrow, & Koeppe, 1996), and on developing haptic interfaces (e.g., Gurocak, Jayaram, Parrish, & Jayaram, 2003; Kulkarni, Fisher, Pardyjak, Minor, & Hollerbach, 2009). However, research dedicated to the examination of expertise effects in cutaneous perception is lacking. If one sets out to examine expertise differences in cutaneous perception, it is first necessary to identify an appropriate population in which expertise effects in cutaneous perception ought be expected or might be observable.

Which target group might provide a suitable test bed for such an enterprise? Here we suggest that expert sailors provide an excellent opportunity to examine expertise effects on cutaneous perception, because they are specifically trained to perceive wind directions and speeds as accurately as possible in order to perform at their best (for a review of the influences of wind, physiological variables, and sailing expertise, see Allen & De Jong, 2006). Early evidence supporting this assumption stemmed from work by Simonnet, Guinard, and Tisseau (2005), who examined sailing performance of blind and blindfolded sailors who were instructed to steer a rectilinear trajectory in a sailboat. …

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