Haptic concepts in the blind

Publication Type:

Journal Article


D. Homa, K. Kahol, P. Tripathi, L. Bratton, S. Panchanathan


Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, Volume 71 (4) (2009)


We investigated and compared the acquisition of haptic concepts by the blind with the acquisition of haptic concepts by sighted controls. Each subject—blind, sighted but blindfolded, sighted and touching, and sighted only—initially classified eight objects into two categories using a study/test format, followed by a recognition/classification test involving old, new, and prototype forms. Each object varied along the dimensions of shape,size, and texture, with each dimension having five values. The categories were linearly separable in three dimensions, but no single dimension permitted 100% accurate classification. The results revealed that blind subjects learned the categories quickly and comparably with sighted controls. On the classification test, all groups performed equivalently, with the category prototype classified more accurately than the old or new stimuli. The blind subjects differed from the other subjects on the recognition test in two ways: They were least likely to false alarm to novel patterns that belonged to the category but most likely to false alarm to the category prototype,which they falsely called “old” 100% of the time. We discuss these results in terms of current views of categorization.


Dr. Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan

Dr. Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan

Director, National Science Foundation