Thin Films on the Skin, but not Frictional Agents, Attenuate the Percept of Pleasantness to Brushed Stimuli

Rezaei, Merat, Systems Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Gerling, Gregory, Systems Engineering, University of Virginia

Brushed stimuli are perceived as pleasant when stroked lightly on the skin surface of a touch receiver at certain velocities. While the relationship between brush velocity and pleasantness has been widely replicated, we do not understand how resultant skin movements – e.g., lateral stretch, stick-slip, normal indentation – drive us to form such judgments. In a series of psychophysical experiments, this work modulates skin movements by varying stimulus stiffness and employing various treatments. The stimuli include brushes of three levels of stiffness and an ungloved human finger. The skin’s friction is modulated via non-hazardous chemicals and washing protocols, and the skin’s thickness and lateral movement are modulated by thin sheets of adhesive film. The stimuli are hand-brushed at controlled forces and velocities. Human participants report perceived pleasantness per trial using ratio scaling. The results indicate that a brush’s stiffness influenced pleasantness more than any skin treatment. Surprisingly, varying the skin’s friction did not affect pleasantness. However, the application of a thin elastic film modulated pleasantness. Such barriers, though elastic and only 40 microns thick, inhibit the skin’s tangential movement and disperse normal force. The finding that thin films modulate affective interactions has implications for wearable sensors and actuation devices.

MS (Master of Science)
biomechanics, haptic perception, neuroscience
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