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Myrthe A. Plaisier, Loes C. J. van Dam, Catharina Glowania, Marc O. Ernst; Exploration mode affects visuohaptic integration of surface orientation. Journal of Vision 2014;14(13):22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.13.22.
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We experience the world mostly in a multisensory fashion using a combination of all of our senses. Depending on the modality we can select different exploration strategies for extracting perceptual information. For instance, using touch we can enclose an object in our hand to explore parts of the object in parallel. Alternatively, we can trace the object with a single finger to explore its parts in a serial fashion. In this study we investigated whether the exploration mode (parallel vs. serial) affects the way sensory signals are combined. To this end, participants visually and haptically explored surfaces that varied in roll angle and indicated which side of the surface was perceived as higher. In Experiment 1, the exploration mode was the same for both modalities (i.e., both parallel or both serial). In Experiment 2, we introduced a difference in exploration mode between the two modalities (visual exploration was parallel while haptic exploration was serial or vice versa). The results showed that visual and haptic signals were combined in a statistically optimal fashion only when the exploration modes were the same. In case of an asymmetry in the exploration modes across modalities, integration was suboptimal. This indicates that spatial-temporal discrepancies in the acquisition of information in the two senses (i.e., haptic and visual) can lead to the breakdown of sensory integration.
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