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Touching base: The effect of participant and stimulus modulation factors on a haptic line bisection task

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Acquiring information about our environment through touch is vital in everyday life. Yet very little literature exists about factors that may influence haptic or tactile processing. Recent neuroimaging studies have reported haptic laterality effects that parallel those reported in the visual literature. With the use of a haptic variant of the classical line bisection task, the present study aimed to determine the presence of laterality effects on a behavioural level. Specifically, three handedness groups including strong dextrals, strong sinistrals, and—the to-date largely neglected group of—mixed-handers were examined in their ability to accurately bisect stimuli constructed from corrugated board strips of various lengths. Stimulus factors known to play a role in visuospatial perception including stimulus location, the hand used for bisection, and direction of exploration were systematically varied through pseudo-randomisation. Similar to the visual domain, stimulus location and length as well as participants' handedness and the hand used for bisection exerted a significant influence on participants' estimate of the centre of haptically explored stimuli. However, these effects differed qualitatively from those described for the visual domain, and the factor direction of exploration did not exert any significant effect. This indicates that laterality effects reported on a neural level are sufficiently pronounced to result in measurable behavioural effects. The results, first, add to laterality effects reported for the visual and auditory domain, second, are in line with supramodal spatial processing and third, provide additional evidence to a conceptualisation of pseudoneglect and neglect as signs of hemispheric attentional asymmetries.
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Keywords: Haptic processing; Lateralisation; Left-handedness; Mixed-handedness; Pseudoneglect; Right-handedness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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