Publication Date


Degree Type

Master of Arts


Both our sense of touch and our sense of vision allow us to perceive common object properties such as size, shape, and texture. The extent of this functional overlap has been studied in relation to infant perception (Bushnell & Weinberger, 1987; Gibson & Walker, 1984; Streri, 1987; Streri & Gentaz, 2003), overlap in brain regions (Amedi, Malach, Hendler, Peled, & Zohary, 2001; Deibert, Kraut, Kermen, & Hart, 1999; James, Humphrey, Gati, Menon, & Goodale, 2002), and adult perception (Gibson, 1962, 1963, 1966; Klatzky, Lederman, & Reed, 1987; Lakatos & Marks, 1999; Norman, Norman, Clayton, Lianekhammy, & Zielke, 2004). The current experiment extended the findings of Norman et al. (2004) by examining the effect of experience upon the visual and haptic discrimination of 3-D object shape, as well as examining for differences in how long visual and haptic shape representations can be held in short-term memory. Participants were asked to compare the shapes of two objects either within a single sensory modality (both objects presented visually or haptically) or across the sensory modalities (one object presented visually, the other presented haptically) for 120 trials. Their task was to compare whether the objects possessed the "same" or "different" 3-D shapes. The objects were presented for a duration of 3 seconds each, with a 3-, 9-, or 15-second interstimulus interval (ISI) between them. Both the unimodal (visual-visual and haptichaptic) and cross-modal (visual-haptic and haptic-visual) conditions exhibited a linear pattern of learning, and were unaffected by the various ISI's used. However, different levels of discrimination accuracies were observed for the various groups with the highest level of accuracy occurring for the visual-visual group (M = 78.65 % correct) and the lowest level of accuracy occurring for the haptic-visual group (M = 65.31 % correct). Different patterns of errors for "same" versus "different" trials were observed for the unimodal and cross-modal conditions. Taken together, the results of the current experiment give us a better understanding of the similarities and differences that exist between the visual and haptic sensory modalities representations of 3-D object shape.



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