Haptic discrimination of stimuli varying in amplitude and width

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We studied active haptic discrimination of the geometrical features of an object. The geometrical parameters under investigation were the amplitude and width of a gaussian-shaped surface. Haptic discrimination thresholds were measured with regard to three values of these geometrical parameters. We found that humans discriminate up to about 300 shapes when both amplitude and width are extrapolated to the range between 1 μm and 1 m. Over this range, which covers the span of the arms, the number of discriminations is small compared to the number across the full range of chromaticities in vision. Roughly speaking, humans are far better at discriminating sharp (extensive amplitude and little width) gaussian surfaces from smooth (small amplitude and extensive width) ones than they are at discriminating small (small amplitude and width) surfaces from large (extensive amplitude and width) ones. Our main conclusion is that discrimination in the geometrical domain is poorest when the proportion between amplitude and width is roughly the same for both shapes. Our results are in close agreement with results of earlier experiments on detection thresholds. This indicates that similar, or even the same, neural mechanisms were used for detection and discrimination of the geometrical parameters under investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-37
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Discrimination ellipse
  • Haptic
  • Perceptual dimension
  • Psychophysics
  • Threshold


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