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Multiple Fingers – One Gestalt

Lezkan, Alexandra; Manuel, S.G.; Colgate, J.E.; Klatzky, R.L,.; Peshkin, M.A.; Drewing, Knut

The Gestalt theory of perception offered principles by which distributed visual sensations are combined into a structured experience (“Gestalt”). We demonstrate conditions whereby haptic sensations at two fingertips are integrated in the perception of a single object. When virtual bumps were presented simultaneously to the right hand’s thumb and index finger during lateral arm movements, participants reported perceiving a single bump. A discrimination task measured the bump’s perceived location and perceptual reliability (assessed by differential thresholds) for four finger configurations, which varied in their adherence to the Gestalt principles of proximity (small vs. large finger separation) and synchrony (virtual spring to link movements of the two fingers vs. no spring). According to models of integration, reliability should increase with the degree to which multi-finger cues integrate into a unified percept. Differential thresholds were smaller in the virtual-spring condition (synchrony) than when fingers were unlinked. Additionally, in the condition with reduced synchrony, greater proximity led to lower differential thresholds. Thus, with greater adherence to Gestalt principles, thresholds approached values predicted for optimal integration. We conclude that the Gestalt principles of synchrony and proximity apply to haptic perception of surface properties and that these principles can interact to promote multi-finger integration.

Lezkan, A. Manuel, S.G. Colgate, J.E., Klatzky, R.L,. Peshkin, M.A. & Drewing, K. (2016). Multiple Fingers – One Gestalt. IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 9(2), 255-266.

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