Head orientation biases tactile localization.
Ho C., Spence C.
Does the perceived location of tactile stimuli presented on the torso depend on the orientation of our heads with respect to our bodies? An experiment is reported that was designed to assess whether the subjective perception of tactile stimuli on the torso changes as people turn their heads in different directions. Our participants used a scale presented on a computer monitor to indicate the perceived position of vibrotactile stimuli presented to one of eight different positions around the frontal side of their waist while they either looked straight ahead, turned their head to the left, or else turned their head to the right. The results showed that the perceived location of tactile stimuli was systematically influenced by head orientation. In particular, the perceived location of the tactile stimuli shifted away from their actual position in the direction opposite to the direction of the participant's head turn. Our results also revealed a systematic decline in the accuracy of tactile localization as a function of the physical distance of the tactile stimuli from the participant's navel. These results echo related findings in the auditory domain where it has been shown that changes in eye position affect auditory lateralization. Our results also have important implications for the design of tactile displays for presenting directional information in a variety of real-world applications.