Curvature affects haptic length perception

Abram F J Sanders*, Astrid M L Kappers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


One possible way of haptically perceiving length is to trace a path with one's index finger and estimate the distance traversed. Here, we present an experiment in which observers judge the lengths of paths across cylindrically curved surfaces. We found that convex and concave surfaces had qualitatively different effects: convex lengths were overestimated, whereas concave lengths were underestimated. In addition, we observed that the index finger moved more slowly across the convex surface than across the concave one. As a result, movement times for convex lengths were longer. The considerable correlation between movement times and length estimates suggests that observers take the duration of movement as their primary measure of perceived length, but disregard movement speeds. Several mechanisms that could underlie observers' failure to account for speed differences are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-351
Number of pages12
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


  • Arm movement
  • Curvature
  • Haptic perception
  • Length perception
  • Radial-tangential illusion


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