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Visual and Haptic Representations of Material Properties

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For more content, see Seeing and Perceiving and Spatial Vision.

Research on material perception has received an increasing amount of attention recently. Clearly, both the visual and the haptic sense play important roles in the perception of materials, yet it is still unclear how both senses compare in material perception tasks. Here, we set out to investigate the degree of correspondence between the visual and the haptic representations of different materials. We asked participants to both categorize and rate 84 different materials for several material properties. In the haptic case, participants were blindfolded and asked to assess the materials based on haptic exploration. In the visual condition, participants assessed the stimuli based on their visual impressions only. While categorization performance was less consistent in the haptic condition than in the visual one, ratings correlated highly between the visual and the haptic modality. PCA revealed that all material samples were similarly organized within the perceptual space in both modalities. Moreover, in both senses the first two principal components were dominated by hardness and roughness. These are two material features that are fundamental for the haptic sense. We conclude that although the haptic sense seems to be crucial for material perception, the information it can gather alone might not be quite fine-grained and rich enough for perfect material recognition.

Affiliations: 1: Abteilung Allgemeine Psychologie, Universität Gießen, 35394 Gießen, Germany


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