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Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Aug;33(4):346-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2010.00634.x. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

Sex difference in human fingertip recognition of micron-level randomness as unpleasant.

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Shiseido Research Center, 2-12-1 Fukuura, Kanazawa-Ku, Yokohama, Japan.


We investigated sex difference in evaluation, using the human fingertip, of the tactile impressions of three different micron-scale patterns laser-engraved on plastic plates. There were two ordered (periodical) patterns consisting of ripples on a scale of a few micrometres and one pseudo-random (non-periodical) pattern; these patterns were considered to mimic the surface geometry of healthy and damaged human hair, respectively. In the first experiment, 10 women and 10 men ran a fingertip over each surface and determined which of the three plates felt most unpleasant. All 10 female participants reported the random pattern, but not the ordered patterns, as unpleasant, whereas the majority of the male participants did not. In the second experiment, 9 of 10 female participants continued to report the pseudo-random pattern as unpleasant even after their fingertip had been coated with a collodion membrane. In the third experiment, participants were asked to evaluate the magnitude of the tactile impression for each pattern. The results again indicated that female participants tend to report a greater magnitude of unpleasantness than male participants. Our findings indicate that the female participants could readily detect microgeometric surface characteristics and that they evaluated the random pattern as more unpleasant. Possible physical and perceptual mechanisms involved are discussed.

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