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Journal Article

Haptic Search is More Efficient When the Stimulus Can Be Interpreted as Consisting of Fewer Items

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Overvliet, K., Mayer, K., Smeets, J., & Brenner, E. (2008). Haptic Search is More Efficient When the Stimulus Can Be Interpreted as Consisting of Fewer Items. Acta Psychologica, 127(1), 51-56. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2007.01.001.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-CAA3-3
In a typical haptic search task, separate items are presented to individual fingertips. The time to find a specific item generally increases with the number of items, but is it the number of items or the number of fingers that determines search time? To find out, we conducted haptic search experiments in which horizontal lines made of swell paper were presented to either two, four or six of the participants’ fingertips. The task for the participant was to lift the finger under which they did not feel (part of) a line. In one of the conditions separate non-aligned lines were presented to the fingertips so that the number of items increased with the number of fingers used. In two other conditions the participants had to find an interruption in a single straight line under one of the fingertips. These conditions differed in the size of the gap. If only the number of items in the tactile display were important, search times would increase with the number of fingers in the first condition, but not depend on the number of fingers used in the other two conditions.

In all conditions we found that the search time increased with the number of fingers used. However, this increase was smaller in the single line condition in which the gap was large enough for one finger to not make any contact with the line. Thus, the number of fingers involved determines the haptic search time, but search is more efficient when the stimulus can be interpreted as consisting of fewer items.