Smooth at one end and rough at the other: influence of object texture on grasping behaviour

Catharina Glowania*, L.C.J. van Dam, E. Brenner, M. A. Plaisier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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When picking up objects using a pinch grip, there are usually numerous places at which one could place the thumb and index finger. Yet, people seem to consistently place them at or close to the centre of mass (COM), presumably to minimize torque and therefore the required grip force. People also prefer to grasp objects by parallel surfaces and ones with higher friction coefficients (rough surfaces), to prevent the object from slipping when they lift it. Here, we examine the trade-off between friction and COM. Participants were asked to grasp and lift aluminium bars of which one end was polished and therefore smooth and the other was rough. Their finger positions were recorded to determine how they grasped the objects. The bars were oriented horizontally in the frontal plane, with the centre aligned with the participants’ body midline. The bars varied in the horizontal offset between the COM and the edge of the rough region. The offset could be 0, 1 or 2 cm. We expected participants to grasp closer to the rough area than the centre of the bar. Completely rough bars and completely smooth bars served as control conditions. The slipperiness of the surface that was grasped affected the height of the grasping points, indicating that participants adjusted their grasping behaviour to the slipperiness of the surface. However, the tendency to grasp closer to the rough area was minimal. This shows that the judged COM largely determines how an object is grasped. Friction has very limited influence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2821-2827
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number9
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • Centre of mass
  • Grasp point selection
  • Grasping
  • Object roughness


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