Remembering Touch: Using Interference Tasks to Study Tactile and Haptic Memory.

Lawson, R., Fernandes, A. M., Albuquerque, & Lacey, S.

We are rarely aware of using our memory for touch and yet research suggests that we are efficient—perhaps surprisingly so—at storing and subsequently accessing memories of how something felt to us. In some cases we may do this explicitly, for example, when deciding whether a melon is ripe or a cake is cooked, but in many more cases we are probably not aware that we are reactivating memories of things that we have touched. Relatively little research has been conducted on memory for touch compared with visual and auditory memory. The proportion of papers on memory for each modality has been stable, with around 70% of search results for visual plus memory, 20% for auditory plus memory, 5% for olfactory plus memory, and less than 5% in total for tactile, haptic, and gustatory plus memory.1 Gallace and Spence (2009) provided a review of the literature on haptic and tactile memory. More recently, Wang, Bodner, and Zhou (2013; see also Wang et al., 2012) reviewed the neural basis of tactile working memory. Here, we focus on the empirical findings from previous interference studies investigating short-term and working memory for touch and also on evaluating this methodology. We then present two studies investigating interference effects on haptic memory for three-dimensional (3D) objects. In the literature there is some inconsistency in the use of the terms tactile and haptic perception. In the current chapter, tactile refers to passive touch (such as an experimenter pressing a shape against the palm of a participant’s hand) whereas haptics refers to active touch, in which participants move their body to feel a stimulus (for example, by grasping a mug).

In P. Jolicoeur, C. Lefebvre, & J. Martinez-Trujillo (Eds.), Mechanisms of Sensory Working Memory (Attention & Performance XXV). Elsevier Press.