The material-weight illusion (MWI) demonstrates how our past experience with material and weight can create expectations that influence the perceived heaviness of an object. Here we used mixed-reality to place touch and vision in conflict, to investigate whether the modality through which materials are presented to a lifter could influence the top-down perceptual processes driving the MWI. University students lifted equally-weighted polystyrene, cork and granite cubes whilst viewing computer-generated images of the cubes in virtual reality (VR). This allowed the visual and tactile material cues to be altered, whilst all other object properties were kept constant. Representation of the objects’ material in VR was manipulated to create four sensory conditions: visual-tactile matched, visual-tactile mismatched, visual differences only and tactile differences only. A robust MWI was induced across all sensory conditions, whereby the polystyrene object felt heavier than the granite object. The strength of the MWI differed across conditions, with tactile material cues having a stronger influence on perceived heaviness than visual material cues. We discuss how these results suggest a mechanism whereby multisensory integration directly impacts how top-down processes shape perception.


Caitlin NaylorMichael Proulx, Gavin Buckingham


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