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Somatosens Mot Res. 2001;18(1):50-61.

Haptic discrimination of size and texture in squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus).

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University of Münster, Department of Psychology, Germany.


The present study analyzed haptic abilities of four squirrel monkeys. Using a two-alternative forced-choice procedure, stimuli were presented in a visually opaque box, allowing unrestrained test subjects to grab through a small opening and touch the discriminanda. Difference thresholds were determined by a modified method of limits. In the first experiment we determined size difference thresholds for the discrimination of circular cylinders using standard stimuli differing in diameter from 10 mm to 35 mm. In the second experiment a texture difference threshold was obtained for the discrimination of grooved surfaces (groove width 2-7 mm). The squirrel monkeys achieved a mean size difference threshold of 8% stimulus difference. The linear increase of absolute thresholds as a function of the starting stimulus size showed that haptic size discriminations in squirrel monkeys correspond to Weber's law. Three of the animals achieved a texture difference of 10% stimulus difference, while one monkey showed a distinctively lower haptic acuity. An analysis of the exploratory behavior points to a subject-related difference in the significance of cutaneous and kinesthetic information during size discriminations. Whereas differences in the animals' exploratory behavior did not correlate with the size difference threshold a subject achieved, different thresholds for texture discrimination can be explained by the different exploratory procedures the monkeys used to touch grooved surfaces. The low difference thresholds determined for the squirrel monkeys in the present study point to the significance of unrestrained test conditions for the assessment of the haptic capacity of a species.

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