The failure to detect tactile change: A tactile analogue of visual change blindness

Research paper by Alberto Gallace, Hong Z. Tan, Charles Spence

Indexed on: 01 Apr '06Published on: 01 Apr '06Published in: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review


A large body of empirical research now shows that people are surprisingly poor at detecting significant changes in visually presented scenes. This phenomenon is known aschange blindness in vision. A similar phenomenon occurs in audition, but to date no such effect has been documented in touch. In the present study, we explored the ability of people to detect changes introduced between two consecutively presented vibrotactile patterns presented over the body surface. The patterns consisted of two or three vibrotactile stimuli presented for 200 msec. The position of one of the vibrotactile stimuli composing the display was repeatedly changed (alternating between two different positions) on 50% of the trials, but the same pattern was presented repeatedly on the remaining trials. Three conditions were investigated: No interval between the patterns, an empty interval between the patterns, and a masked interval between the patterns. Change detection was near perfect in the no-interval block. Performance deteriorated somewhat in the empty-interval block, but by far the worst change detection performance occurred in the masked-interval block. These results demonstrate that “change blindness” can also affect tactile perception.