Haptic detection thresholds of Gaussian profiles over the whole range of spatial scales

S. Louw*, A. M L Kappers, Jan J. Koenderink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the literature only a small subset of the broad range of scales of human haptic perception has been explored. In this experiment, haptic detection thresholds have been investigated over a wide range of spatial scales. Computer-controlled manufacturing techniques have made it possible to produce stimuli with sufficient accuracy to explore the gamut of haptic scales. We used stimuli with a convex or concave Gaussian-shaped profile running over the middle of a strip. The width of the Gaussian profile was varied between 150 μm and 240 mm. In this range of spatial scales a number of mechanisms, ranging from cutaneous mechanoreception to proprioception in fingers, arm and shoulder, contribute to haptic perception. The discrimination threshold between a flat surface and a Gaussian surface was investigated in a series of two alternative forced choice experiments on human subjects. The thresholds run from 1 μm for the narrowest Gaussian profiles to 8 mm for the broadest profile. The same thresholds were found for convex and concave shapes. Over the range of spatial scales, from 1 mm width on, the dependence of the detection threshold on the spatial width of the Gaussian profile was found to be a power function with an exponent of about 1.3.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-374
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Detection threshold
  • Gaussian profile
  • Haptic perception
  • Psychophysics
  • Touch


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