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Predictive and sensory signals systematically lower peak forces in the exploration of softer objects

Lezkan, Alexandra; Drewing, Knut

An object’s softness is stereotypically judged by pressure movements indenting the surface [1]. In exploration without movement constraints, participants repeat such indentation movements. We investigated how people modulate executed peak forces for different indentations depending on stimulus softness. Participants performed a 2AFC discrimination task for stimulus pairs from one of 4 softness categories. We assumed that movement control at different exploration moments is based on variations in the predictive and sensory signals available. We manipulated availability of predictive signals on softness category, by presenting either stimuli of the same category in a blocked fashion (high predictability) or by randomly mixing stimuli from different categories (low predictability). Effects of sensory signals were examined by contrasting first and last indentation, as sensory signals are hardly available when initiating exploration but gathered during exploration. The results show that participants systematically apply lower forces when sensory or predictive signals indicate softer objects as compared to harder objects. We conclude that softness exploration can be considered as a sensorimotor control loop, in which predictive and sensory signals determine movement control. Further, the results indicate a high importance of predictive processes throughout the entire exploration, as effects of predictive signals maintain in the last indentation.

Lezkan, A. & Drewing, K. (2015). Predictive and sensory signals systematically lower peak forces in the exploration of softer objects. World Haptics Conference, 2015 IEEE (pp. 69-74). IEEE.

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