The effects of curvature on haptic judgments of extent in sighted and blind people

Morton A. Heller*, Astrid M L Kappers, Melissa McCarthy, Ashley Clark, Tara Riddle, Erin Fulkerson, Lindsay Wemple, Anne McClure Walk, Andreana Basso, Crystal Wanek, Kristen Russler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A series of experiments was carried out to examine the effect of curvature on haptic judgments of extent in sighted and blind individuals. Experiment 1 showed that diameters connecting the endpoints of semicircular lines were underestimated with respect to straight lines, but failed to show an effect of visual experience on length judgments. In experiment 2 we tested arc lengths. The effects of curvature on perceived path length were weaker, but were still present in this experiment. Visual experience had no effect on path length judgments. Another experiment was performed to examine the effect of repeated tracing (1, 5, 9, or unlimited number of traces) on judgments of the lengths of straight lines and diameters of semicircles. Judgments of extent were more accurate when subjects engaged in larger numbers of traces. There was no effect of number of traces on curve-height judgments, suggesting that subjects were not using height estimates to judge diameters of semicircles. In a further experiment we tested the effect of number of traces on curves that varied in height. Restricting subjects to a single trace magnified the effect of path length on judgments of the distance between the endpoints of curves. Additional experiments showed that curvature effects on diameter judgments were not eliminated when stimuli were in the frontal plane or when the curves were explored with the use of two hands. Arm support had no effect on judged length in experiment 7. A final experiment showed a robust horizontal - vertical illusion in haptic perception of convex curves, with overestimation of the heights of the curves compared with their widths. The practical and theoretical implications of the results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)816-840
Number of pages25
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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