Grocery stores might seem mundane as contrasted with the tactile laboratory, but anyone observing the tactile-haptic encounters at counters containing bananas, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and so on, must realize there is a great deal of tactile-haptic exploration and "testing" going on in such settings. Yet one cannot remember having read a thorough account of such behaviors, and the information they yield about foodstuffs. One may look forward to a dissertation with a title something like: "Vegetable Encounters of the Informative Kind."
Moving from fruit stands to department stores, consider the haptic behaviors of customers examining fur coats (or artificial versions thereof), sweaters, pillows, silk scarves, and so on. Their haptic behaviors, and the resulting decisions and impressions resulting therefrom should yield a rewarding set of data concerning how people feel such materials, and how they subsequently feel about those same items. The perceiver fondling a fur coat likely explores the softness, depth, and density of the fur with the fingers, just as the eye may caress the gloss, color, and visible texture. Pet shops are likely sources of valuable haptic information for fur still being worn by original owners! Manufacturers may know more about the haptics of consumer behavior than do perceptual psychologists--to wit, the weight of "fine" silverware and the heft of "better" chess pieces! The furniture and housewares department may hold several theses concerned with haptic behaviors and their consequences in judgment and decisions.
Auto repair shops may hold haptic mysteries, from the smoothness of reworked metals in body shops, to the locating of parts of the vehicle that cannot be viewed due to obscure location; anyone who has ever threaded a nut (or opened one) may testify to the naturalistic research possibilities here.
Hospitals should provide ready arenas as virtual emporiums of palpation, scanning, and stroking behaviors--mostly for obtaining information about tissue states, lump conditions (but see Adams et al., 1976; Bloom, Criswell, Pennypacker, Catania, & Adams, 1982), congestive conditions (via audition), and so on. Yet many studies concerned with touching in hospitals rarely record more than who touches whom, and for how long.
To conclude, students of touch and touching must consider ecological concerns if the future study of touch is to be related to the roles of touch in everyday life-life in the real world.
Adams C. K., Hall D. C., Pennypacker H. S., Goldstein M. K., Hench L. L., Madden M. C., Stein G. H., & Catania A. C. ( 1976). "Lump detection in simulated human breasts". Perception & Psychophysics, 20, 163-167.
Bloom H. S., Criswell E. L., Pennypacker H. S., Catania A. C., & Adams C. K. ( 1982). "Major stimulus dimensions determining detection of simulated breast lesions". Perception & Psychophysics, 32, 251-260.