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Haptic object perception: spatial dimensionality and relation to vision.
Enabled by the remarkable dexterity of the human hand, specialized haptic exploration is a hallmark of object perception by touch. Haptic exploration normally takes place in a spatial world that is three-dimensional; nevertheless, stimuli of reduced spatial dimensionality are also used to display spatial information. This paper examines the consequences of full (three-dimensional) versus reduced (two-dimensional) spatial dimensionality for object processing by touch, particularly in comparison with vision. We begin with perceptual recognition of common human-made artefacts, then extend our discussion of spatial dimensionality in touch and vision to include faces, drawing from research on haptic recognition of facial identity and emotional expressions. Faces have often been characterized as constituting a specialized input for human perception. We find that contrary to vision, haptic processing of common objects is impaired by reduced spatial dimensionality, whereas haptic face processing is not. We interpret these results in terms of fundamental differences in object perception across the modalities, particularly the special role of manual exploration in extracting a three-dimensional structure.