Publication Date

Summer 2015

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

J. Farley Norman (Director), Andrew Mienaltowski, and Matthew Shake

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


Our tactile perceptual experiences occur when we interact, actively and passively, with environmental objects and surfaces. Previous research has demonstrated that active manual exploration enhances the tactile perception of object shape. Nevertheless, the factors that contribute to this enhancement are not well understood. The present study evaluated the ability of 14 older adults to discriminate curved surfaces by actively feeling objects with a single index finger and by passively feeling objects that moved relative to a restrained finger. The curvature discrimination thresholds obtained for passive-dynamic touch were significantly lower than those that occurred during active-dynamic touch. This result demonstrates that active exploratory movements of the hand and fingers do not necessarily lead to the best curvature discrimination performance; rather, performance was best in the current study when dynamic tactile stimulation occurred in the absence of active movement. The results of the present study also clarify those obtained by Norman et al. (2013), who found that active-dynamic touch was superior to static touch -- the current findings extend this previous research and indicate that passive-dynamic touch can yield performance that is even higher than what is obtained for active-dynamic touch.


Cognition and Perception | Psychology