ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Shitsukan — the Multisensory Perception of Quality



We often estimate, or perceive, the quality of materials, surfaces, and objects, what the Japanese refer to as ‘shitsukan’, by means of several of our senses. The majority of the literature on shitsukan perception has, though, tended to focus on the unimodal visual evaluation of stimulus properties. In part, this presumably reflects the widespread hegemony of the visual in the modern era and, in part, is a result of the growing interest, not to mention the impressive advances, in digital rendering amongst the computer graphics community. Nevertheless, regardless of such an oculocentric bias in so much of the empirical literature, it is important to note that several other senses often do contribute to the impression of the material quality of surfaces, materials, and objects as experienced in the real world, rather than just in virtual reality. Understanding the multisensory contributions to the perception of material quality, especially when combined with computational and neural data, is likely to have implications for a number of fields of basic research as well as being applicable to emerging domains such as, for example, multisensory augmented retail, not to mention multisensory packaging design.
Multisensory Research 33 (2020) 737–775
Shitsukan the Multisensory Perception of Quality
Charles Spence
Department of Experimental Psychology, Anna Watts Building, University of Oxford, Oxford,
Received 17 December 2019; accepted 29 January 2020
We often estimate, or perceive, the quality of materials, surfaces, and objects, what the Japanese
refer to as ‘shitsukan’, by means of several of our senses. The majority of the literature on shitsukan
perception has, though, tended to focus on the unimodal visual evaluation of stimulus properties. In
part, this presumably reflects the widespread hegemony of the visual in the modern era and, in part, is
a result of the growing interest, not to mention the impressive advances, in digital rendering amongst
the computer graphics community. Nevertheless, regardless of such an oculocentric bias in so much
of the empirical literature, it is important to note that several other senses often do contribute to the
impression of the material quality of surfaces, materials, and objects as experienced in the real world,
rather than just in virtual reality. Understanding the multisensory contributions to the perception of
material quality, especially when combined with computational and neural data, is likely to have
implications for a number of fields of basic research as well as being applicable to emerging domains
such as, for example, multisensory augmented retail, not to mention multisensory packaging design.
Shitsukan, quality perception, material perception, multisensory, crossmodal, incongruency
1. Introduction: Visual Hegemony in the Study of Material Perception
Komatsu and Goda (2018) published a review of the literature on ‘Shitsukan’.
This Japanese term translates roughly as ‘a sense of material quality’ or ‘mate-
rial perception’. Importantly, however, while the abstract to their paper stresses
the important contribution that the non-visual senses make to shitsukan per-
ception, Komatsu and Goda’s review primarily deals just with unisensory
visual contributions to its evaluation. In particular, these researchers focus on
©Spence, 2020 DOI:10.1163/22134808-bja10003
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738 C. Spence / Multisensory Research 33 (2020) 737–775
both behavioural data and the recently emerging body of neuroimaging lit-
erature that has attempted to determine the neural substrates responsible for
the perception of various aspects of material quality, such as visual glossiness
(Hunter, 1975; see Chadwick and Kentridge, 2015, for a review), translucency
(Chadwick et al., 2017), roughness (Ho et al., 2008), and/or iridescence (Sha-
ran et al., 2014; see Anderson, 2011, and Fleming, 2014, for reviews). There
is also interest in the visual perception of different classes of materials such as
woods, plastics, pearls, etc. (e.g., Tani et al., 2014).
The majority (but by no means all) of the references cited by Komatsu and
Goda (2018) deal only with unimodal studies of visual shitsukan at either the
behavioural/psychophysical and/or neural levels. While such a visual bias is,
of course, widespread across many areas of science (see Hutmacher, 2019, for
a recent review; and Fraser, 1892, for a much earlier commentary), the very
ubiquity of this visual hegemony (see Levin, 1993; Mirzoeff, 1999) certainly
does not mean that it should go unchallenged. This visual bias in shitsukan
research is presumably driven, at least in part, by the growing interest, not
to mention the impressive advances in computer graphics and the visual ren-
dering of complex material properties such as glossiness and iridescence. As
such, Komatsu and Goda’s (2018) review would implicitly seem to be targeted
at the computer graphics and computational vision communities. By contrast,
the present review is directed more toward those working at the interface of
augmented retail and other more product-related applications, such as, for ex-
ample, those working on the development of multisensory product packaging.
While there has undoubtedly been some progress in the field of haptic ren-
dering (e.g., see Lin and Otaduy’s, 2008, volume on this theme; see also Bicchi
et al., 2008; Salisbury et al., 1995) (see Note 1), the field of haptic or, for that
matter, auditory (see Aramaki et al., 2011; Klatzky et al., 2000; Serafin et al.,
2011) digital rendering has not advanced anything like as much as might have
been hoped, even over the last decade (e.g., Jones and Ho, 2008; see Gallace
and Spence, 2014, or Parisi, 2018, for reviews of the tactile/haptic domain).
There are a number of reasons for this asymmetry. In part, it presumably re-
lates to limitations in the available technology for tactile/haptic stimulation.
However, it is also worth noting that the estimated bandwidths of the visual
and tactile modalities are radically different (see Table 1 for a summary). What
is also unique about haptic rendering is that it is bidirectional and, as such, the
bandwidth of the feedback loop is critical to the fidelity of what is rendered
(e.g., Salisbury et al., 2004). One might also consider here how much com-
mercial interests, and their associated investments, play into this space. That
said, though, it is worth noting that touch-screen technology has rapidly been
incorporated into everyday devices in recent years (at least three billion touch-
enabled devices worldwide by 2015 according to Immersion Technology; see
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C. Spence / Multisensory Research 33 (2020) 737–775 739
Table 1.
Table summarizing the number of sensors, number of afferents, information transmission
rates/channel capacity (from Zimmerman, 1989), the putative percentage of attentional capture
(from Heilig, 1992) and the percentage of neocortex (Felleman and Van Essen, 1991) relative
to each sensory modality (though see Hsiao, 1998, for similarities between vision and touch).
(Reprinted from Gallace et al., 2012.)
No. of
No. of
channel capacity
Vision 2*1082*10610740 70% 55%
Audition 3*1042*10410530 20% 3.4%
Touch 1071061065 4% 11.5%
Taste 3*1071031031(?) 1% 0.5%
Smell 7*1071051051(?) 5% n.a.
There are currently a number of intriguing possibilities as far as augmented
retail applications are concerned, where stimulating more than just the con-
sumer’s eyes holds the promise of increasingly engaging multisensory applica-
tions (e.g., see Heller et al., 2019; Leswing, 2016; Overmars and Poels, 2015;
Xiao et al., 2016; see Petit et al., 2019, for a review). To be absolutely clear,
the primary audience for this particular review is those working (or interested)
in applied multisensory domains, including those considering how best to ren-
der material perception, as well as the rapidly-emerging field of multisensory
packaging design (see Velasco and Spence, 2019, for reviews). Neuroimaging
studies of multisensory shitsukan will not be covered in any detail here, in
part because there is little that specifically relates to multisensory shitsukan
perception, and in part because the unisensory, primarily visual, literature has
been summarized so thoroughly by Komatsu and Goda (2018).
2. Non-Visual Contributions to Shitsukan
It can be argued that what is missing from Komatsu and Goda’s (2018) other-
wise excellent review is a full discussion of the role played by the non-visual
senses in the perception of material quality (cf. Fujisaki, 2020). At best, what
one gets is an acknowledgement that certain material properties can only be
assessed, or at least are much easier to assess, via another sense, such as touch
(be it passive or active, the latter, note, commonly if not universally referred
to as haptics). In particular, attributes such as weight, compressability, tem-
perature, and fine (or microgeometric) surface texture are typically easier to
ascertain reliably via contact with the skin surface and/or haptic exploration
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740 C. Spence / Multisensory Research 33 (2020) 737–775
rather than solely by means of visual inspection (e.g., Drucker, 1988; Gal-
lace and Spence, 2014; Guest and Spence, 2003a; Krishna and Morrin, 2008).
There has also long been interest in the tactile/haptic discrimination of differ-
ent materials, and more specifically different qualities of, for example, wool
(Binns, 1926) or wood flooring (Berger et al., 2006).
These material properties are often distinguished from an object’s geomet-
ric properties (shape, curvature, orientation, size and volume) the perception
of which is generally based on visual cues (Kahrimanovic et al., 2010). Both
vision and touch can be used to determine shape (Lacey and Sathian, 2014;
Norman et al., 2004). According to the neuroimaging research, there would
appear to be parallel pathways in the brain for the processing of surface prop-
erties and the form of objects (Cant and Goodale, 2007; Sathian et al., 2011).
In their review, Komatsu and Goda highlight the growing body of evidence
suggesting that certain material qualities may be represented in the same brain
regions, regardless of the sensory modality through which those qualities hap-
pen to be perceived (e.g., Eck et al., 2013; Goda et al., 2016; see also Whitsel
et al., 1989). Similarly, the brain areas involved in determining various object
properties, or a person’s evaluation of those properties (e.g., in terms of aes-
thetic appreciation), may well turn out to be shared between the senses (e.g.,
Brown et al., 2011; see also Schifferstein and Hekkert, 2011). A similar claim
can also be made with regards to sensory attributes such as surface texture and
form (Goda et al., 2016; Pérez-Bellido et al., 2018; Podrebarac et al., 2014;
see also Eck et al., 2013; Sun et al., 2016; Yau, Hollins and Bensmaia, 2009).
3. Crossmodal Influences on Judgements of Visual Quality
Beyond conveying information concerning those physical attributes of a stim-
ulus that cannot be ascertained visually, it is important to note that even
what we consider to be visual judgements, or rather judgements of visually-
determined material properties, are often influenced by whatever other sensory
inputs are present at around the same time, no matter whether we realize it or
not (e.g., Adams et al., 2016; Hagtvedt and Brasel, 2016); and mostly the
evidence suggests that we do not (e.g., Laird, 1932; Li et al., 2007). So, for
example, it is well known amongst laundry detergent manufacturers (such as
Unilever) that delivering ‘brilliant whites’ is about so much more than simply
what the customer sees. Perhaps counterintuitively, adding the right ‘clean’
fragrance really can help to make one’s whites look brighter (see Vickers and
Spence, 2007). In fact, there is now a rich body of empirical data demonstrat-
ing the modulatory role of scent in our evaluation of the physical attributes
(e.g., age, attractiveness, and gender) of other people (e.g., Demattè et al.,
2007a; Li et al., 2007; McGlone et al., 2013).
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Adding the right scent has also been shown to influence people’s ratings of
fabric softness and material quality (e.g., Churchill et al., 2009; Demattè et al.,
2006; Laird, 1932). In recent years, the presence of congruent versus incon-
gruent scents has also been found to affect people’s perception of a variety of
material properties as well as their aesthetic response to those materials (e.g.,
Bone and Jantrania, 1992; Bosmans, 2006; Demattè et al., 2007b; Krishna
et al., 2010; Zellner et al., 2008; though see also Schifferstein and Michaut,
We typically inspect objects and materials visually first. Furthermore, such
visual impressions likely anchor the subsequent haptic/multisensory evalua-
tion (e.g., Buckingham et al., 2009; Wijntjes et al., 2019; Xiao et al., 2016;
see Atlas and Wager, 2013, and Piqueras-Fiszman and Spence, 2015, for re-
views). At the same time, however, it is also important to recognize that this
does not mean that material quality cannot be assessed, or inferred, by the
cues available to the other senses too (e.g., Baumgartner et al., 2013; De-
cré and Cloonan, 2019; Fujisaki et al., 2014; Picard, 2007; Xiao et al., 2016;
Yanagisawa and Takatsuji, 2015; Yanagisawa and Yuki, 2011).
As Komatsu and Goda (2018, p. 330) note: Every sensory modality is
involved in material perception.Not only that,material perception also has
crossmodal aspects.For e xam pl e,when we see a sweater made of fine wool,
we can perceive that it will be soft and warm,or we can sense that a metal
cup will be cold and hard to the touch. They go on to suggest that: Some
material properties,such as microscale roughness,hardness,coldness,and
weight,are nonvisual and cannot be directly sensed visually.Nevertheless,
interestingly,humans can accurately estimate such nonvisual properties from
the visual appearance of materials,in a way that correlates with those hapti-
cally estimated through touching them (Baumgartner et al., 2013). (Komatsu
and Goda, 2018, p. 340; see also Yanagisawa and Takatsuji, 2015).
A growing body of empirical research now shows that the impressions of-
fered by the non-visual senses sometimes also contribute to, or modify, the
‘visual’ impression of various material qualities (e.g., Hagtvedt and Brasel,
2016; Jansson-Boyd and Marlow, 2007; Laird, 1932; Murakoshi et al., 2013).
Oftentimes, though, people do not seem to realize just how much informa-
tion may be carried by the non-visual (and hence often unattended, or less
attended) senses.
Interest in the multisensory assessment of material qualities stretches back
to the early days of experimental psychology, as documented in the seminal
work of English scientist Henry Binns (e.g., Binns, 1934, 1937). The latter
was charged with assessing the manner in which experts assessed the quality
of woollen tops in the mills, a matter at the time that was of great practical (not
to mention pecuniary) interest to the mill owners. More than 80 years ago,
Binns’ research had already demonstrated the importance of both the visual
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742 C. Spence / Multisensory Research 33 (2020) 737–775
and tactile assessment of quality in expert assessors. In one intriguing recent
study on a related theme, Xiao et al. (2016) had their participants match pho-
tographs of fabric samples to the feel of physical fabric samples. Removing
colour was found to reduce accuracy, especially when the images contained
3-D folds. Overall, images of draped fabrics, which revealed 3-D shape in-
formation, resulted in better matching accuracy than those images displaying
flattened fabrics instead. Overall, therefore, it would appear that people use
chromatic gradients to infer tactile fabric properties, at least if they happen to
be available.
4. Sensory Dominance and Computational Accounts of Multisensory
Importantly, however, the perception of material quality, established on the ba-
sis of non-visual cues, may well be overridden by what we see (Fujisaki et al.,
2014) a phenomenon known as ‘visual dominance’ (Posner et al., 1976).
So, for example, according to influential early research, our impression of the
size and shape of an object may be completely dominated by vision, often
overriding any discrepant tactile/haptic cues that happen to be present (Rock
and Harris, 1967; Rock and Victor, 1964; see Spence, 2011a, for a review).
Ernst and Banks (2002) brought some much-needed mathematical rigour to
the field of sensory (i.e., visual) dominance research by demonstrating that
maximum-likelihood estimation provides an excellent quantitative account of
the integration of visual and tactile/haptic cues in relation to size/length judg-
ments. In their study, participants had to judge the height of a bar that could
be seen and also felt between the thumb and index finger of one hand (deliv-
ered virtually by means of two force-feedback devices). Adding noise to the
visual signal resulted in the participants increasingly relying on haptic infor-
mation when making their judgements. According to the maximum-likelihood
estimation account of sensory dominance, the human brain combines sensory
inputs in a manner that is very close to that of a statistically optimal multisen-
sory integrator. That is, the multisensory integration of disparate unisensory
inputs appears to maximally reduce the uncertainty of, or variance associated
with, our multisensory estimates of external stimulus qualities (given that all
sensory estimates are intrinsically noisy). In fact, the maximum-likelihood ac-
count provides a surprisingly good account of the relative contribution of each
of the senses to multisensory perception in a variety of different settings, and
for a variety of different combinations of stimulus modalities (e.g., Alais and
Burr, 2004). Nevertheless, there may still be some residual role for directed
attention in explaining the patterns of sensory dominance that are sometimes
observed (Meijer et al., 2019).
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However, one problem that was not tackled by Ernst and Banks’ (2002)
seminal work concerns the binding problem, namely the problem of which
cues should be integrated, and which should be kept separate. According to
subsequent research on causal inference, the unity/segregation decision can be
resolved probabilistically by means of the incorporation of a variety of priors
(see Körding et al., 2007; though see also Chen and Spence, 2017). There
has also been research into the multisensory (especially visual–tactile/hap-
tic) integration of surface roughness (often using sandpaper samples). Indeed,
over the years, an extensive body of research has investigated visual–tactile
interactions in the perception of roughness (e.g., Guest and Spence, 2003b;
Heller, 1982; Jones and O’Neil, 1985; Lederman and Abbott, 1981; Lederman
and Klatzky, 2004; Lederman, Thorne and Jones, 1986; Warren and Rossano,
1991; Werner and von Schiller, 1932). Intriguingly, based on the available em-
pirical evidence, it would appear that while tactile cues tend to dominate when
the senses are put into conflict as far as microgeometric surface textures are
concerned, vision typically dominates for the perception of macrogeometric
surface properties (see also Klatzky et al., 1993). This somewhat unusual pat-
tern of dominance presumably reflects the relative precision of the two senses
at different scales (Klatzky and Lederman, 2010). Lederman et al. (1986)
proposed a weighted averaging model of visuotactile texture perception. The
Bayesian account has now been extended to the perception of surface tex-
ture (e.g., Yanagisawa and Takatsuji, 2015). However, given that the Bayesian
causal inference account of shape/texture perception has been reviewed exten-
sively elsewhere, that will not be covered in any more detail here.
4.1. Audiovisual Contributions to Multisensory Shitsukan Perception:
Computational Account
While much of the research documenting multisensory contributions to ma-
terial perception has focused on either visuotactile or audiotactile integration,
audiovisual integration is also of interest. It is also perhaps the easiest modality
combination to render digitally at the present time (see Fujisaki et al., 2014;
see also Etzi et al., 2018; Fenko et al., 2011; Gerdes et al., 2014). In one fasci-
nating study, Fujisaki et al. had 16 participants rate auditory (impact sounds),
visual and audiovisual stimuli depicting a variety of impact events. All pos-
sible combinations of six visible materials were crossed with eight different
possible impact sounds. The researchers wanted to know which sense would
dominate in terms of people’s perception of the material category when view-
ing one material combined with the impact sound of another (incongruent)
material. The participants had to rate how likely it was that the experimen-
tal stimuli that they were presented with were to indicate one of 13 material
categories. Participants rated each of the six visual stimuli and each of the
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744 C. Spence / Multisensory Research 33 (2020) 737–775
eight impact sounds when presented in isolation. They also had to rate all 48
possible audiovisual combinations of the two unisensory stimuli.
The results of this study indicated strong interactions between the senses in
terms of participants’ material perception. So, for example, when the appear-
ance of glass was paired with an impact sound from a bell pepper, the resulting
audiovisual stimulus was rated as seeming like transparent plastic (see Fig. 1).
According to Fujisaki et al. (2014, p. 1): Rating material-category likeli-
hoods follow a multiplicative integration rule in that the categories judged
to be likely are consistent with both visual and auditory stimuli.On the other
hand,rating-material properties,such as roughness and hardness,follow a
weighted average rule.Despite a difference in their integration calculations,
both rules can be interpreted as optimal Bayesian integration of independent
audiovisual estimations for the two types of material judgment,respectively.”
Here, though, it is perhaps worth noting that research from elsewhere in
the field of multisensory perception has shown that the result when presenting
incongruent pairs of multisensory stimuli may itself depend on the context in
which they happen to be presented. In particular, Gau and Noppeney (2016)
documented a reduced McGurk effect when audiovisual McGurk stimulus
pairs were embedded in a context of incongruent audiovisual speech stimuli
compared to when they were embedded in a stream of congruent speech stim-
uli instead. It may therefore be relevant to note that in Fujisaki et al.s (2014)
study, the vast majority of the multisensory material pairs that were presented
to participants were, in some sense, incongruent (i.e., originating from pairs
of stimuli that did not belong together) meaning perhaps that less crossmodal
interaction will be observed.
4.2. Crossmodal Correspondences and Multisensory Shitsukan Perception
Consistent with the view that many non-visual associations may be stored as
learned associations, or in some cases crossmodal correspondences (see also
Fenko et al., 2010b; Spence, 2011b), we internalize the statistics of the en-
vironment (Parise et al., 2014; Peeva et al., 2004; Peters et al., 2015, 2018).
Hence, crossmodal relations between material properties will likely be rapidly
internalized as coupling priors (Chen and Spence, 2017; Ernst, 2007; Komatsu
and Goda, 2018; Spence, 2011b; Yuan et al., 2017).
It should, though, be borne in mind that such crossmodal relations may re-
late to putatively amodal material properties, such as surface texture or form,
or else to what Walker-Andrews (1994) refers to as arbitrary crossmodal re-
lations, such as the ring tone that is associated with your mobile phone, say,
or the lemon or pine fragrance added to many cleaning products. There is
also an interesting, and perhaps orthogonal question here as to whether the
associations (or correspondences) between the senses are all learnt from the
statistics of the environment (or the marketplace; e.g., see Ye et al., 2019), and
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Figure 1. Examples of the obtained profiles in the material category experiment (average of
16 participants). (a) An auditory-induced visual material category–perception change. Differ-
ent material categories were perceived for the same visual stimulus with different sounds.
(b) A vision-induced auditory material category–perception change. Different material cate-
gories were perceived for the same auditory stimulus with different visual stimuli. (Figure and
legend reprinted from Fujisaki et al., 2014, Fig. 4.)
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hence might, in some sense, be considered arbitrary, like the association be-
tween packaging attributes and likely product qualities, or push-button sounds
and/or whether any have much older precedents in human development (and
hence which might be considered by some as putatively innate; see LaBonte,
2009; Meert et al., 2014; Saad and Gill, 2000; Spence, 2011b). One might also
want to draw a distinction here between those cases where the different senses
are picking up on the same putatively amodal stimulus property (such as visual
and tactile/haptic estimates of shape, size, or surface texture), versus on non-
redundant stimulus dimensions (as in the case of crossmodally corresponding
stimulus dimensions, such as, for example, the corresponding dimensions of
auditory pitch and visual size, or elevation; see Deroy et al., 2018; see also
Walker et al., 2010, 2017, in press).
The sections that follow selectively review some of the most intriguing
evidence concerning the role played by the non-visual senses in shitsukan
(Note 2).
5. Unisensory Quality Assessments Beyond the Visual Modality
5.1. Tactile Shitsukan Perception
Over the course of the last century, many researchers have investigated the
perception of shitsukan (though the research is often not described as such,
outside Japan) by means of unisensory cues presented in one of the non-visual
senses. As a matter of fact, the majority of this research has focused on the
tactile, or haptic, perception of material quality (e.g., Binns, 1926; Culbert
and Stellwagen, 1963; Hollins et al., 1993; Ludden and Van Rompay, 2015;
Okamoto et al., 2013; Philippe et al., 2004; Picard et al., 2003; Yoshida,
1968a, b, c). This is what we might call the feel the quality. Much of the
unisensory tactile/haptic research has focused on an assessment of the ma-
terial perception of the quality of fabrics. In terms of the affective response
to materials, it turns out that softness is important, especially for those gar-
ments worn close to the skin (e.g., Chang et al., 2015; Kergoat et al., 2012;
see also Etzi et al., 2014; Teli, 2015). However, there is also a large body of
research concerning the tactile/haptic aspects of object recognition/perception
(e.g., Karlsson and Velasco, 2007; Klatzky et al., 1985; Lederman, 1982; Son-
neveld and Schifferstein, 2008; Spence and Gallace, 2011). There has even
been some limited research in the field of tactile aesthetics that may be rele-
vant here (Gallace and Spence, 2011; see also Lindauer, 1986; Lindauer et al.,
Key material dimensions in the tactile/haptic modality include surface
roughness, surface texture, compliance, weight and temperature (or thermal
diffusivity, Bergmann Tiest and Kappers, 2009; see also Bergmann Tiest and
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Kappers, 2006; Bhatta et al., 2017; Chen et al., 2009; Goebl et al., 2014)
and they are fundamental to haptic perception of object properties (Bergmann
Tiest, 2010; see also Fujisaki, 2020). Beyond that, there are also the primar-
ily tactile/haptic properties of liquid materials, namely viscosity and wetness
(Bergmann Tiest, 2015). One of the other important judgements that a person
can make as far as the material properties of a surface or object is concerned
relates to its perceived ‘naturalness’. Over the last decade or so, a number of
researchers have investigated the relative contribution of different senses to the
perception of this material quality (e.g., Binninger, 2017; Labbe et al., 2013;
Nikolaidou, 2011; Overvliet and Soto-Faraco, 2011; Overvliet et al., 2016;
Whitaker et al., 2008; see also Fujisaki et al., 2015; Kanaya et al., 2016). Here
it should be noted that there is a growing interest in how other packaging cues,
such as a matte finish, may also be linked to, and hence help to convey product
naturalness (e.g., Han, 2018; Marckhgott and Kamleitner, 2019). Understand-
ably, many companies have also been interested in the question of whether it
is possible to render/manufacture a natural finish (e.g., to product packaging
or building materials).
As far as tactile perception is concerned, the impression of shitsukan may
depend on the particular region of the skin surface that is used to evaluate
a material (see Ackerley et al., 2012; Etzi et al., 2016). Not only are differ-
ent sensitivities documented at different skin sites, but some tactile receptors,
namely C-tactile afferents, are only found in the hairy skin (e.g., see Löken
et al., 2009; McGlone and Spence, 2010). Several researchers have demon-
strated that one and the same material may be rated quite differently as a
function of the skin surface against which it makes contact (Ackerley et al.,
2014; Essick et al., 2010; Etzi et al., 2016). At the same time, however, some
surprisingly robust individual differences in the ‘Need for Touch’ (NFT) have
also been identified by researchers (e.g., Peck and Childers, 2003a, b). Peck
and Childers (2003a, p. 431) define it as “a preference for the extraction and
utilization of information obtained through the haptic system”. An individual’s
NFT is typically assessed by means of their response to a standardized series
of statements. Those scoring higher (i.e., agreeing more with the questions)
are rated as higher in their autotelic need for touch. The sorts of statements
used by Peck and Childers to pick out those high in the autotelic NFT include
the following: ‘Touching products can be fun’; and ‘I find myself touching all
kinds of products in stores’. According to Peck and Childers (2008, p. 207):
The instrumental dimension of NFT refers to those aspects of touch that re-
flect outcome directed touch with a salient purchase goal... Autotelic touch
involves a consumer seeking fun,sensory stimulation,and enjoyment with no
purchase goal necessarily salient”.
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748 C. Spence / Multisensory Research 33 (2020) 737–775
In the years since the NFT framework was put forward, a number of studies
have documented that it provides a useful means of distinguishing meaning-
fully between different groups of consumers (Krishna and Morrin, 2008; see
also Citrin et al., 2003). In practice, differences in the NFT typically mean
that people are differentially affected by, and hence seek out, the tactile/haptic
qualities of an object or material (Ackerman, 2016; Childers and Peck, 2010;
Spence, 2019; Workman, 2010). Although it remains unclear, the suggestion
is that these individual differences in the NFT presumably reflect more cogni-
tive (i.e., central, rather than peripheral receptor-based) individual differences.
Intriguingly, similar individual differences have not been reported for the other
higher ‘spatial’ senses.
5.2. Auditory Shitsukan Perception
A separate body of experimental research has assessed auditory shitsukan per-
ception (e.g., Björk, 1985; Giordano and McAdams, 2006; McDermott and
Simoncelli, 2011; Zhang et al., 2017). Auditory cues turn out to play an impor-
tant role in the assessment of product quality (Björk, 1985), what one might
be minded to describe as the sound of quality. In terms of the category of
material, Giordano and McAdams assessed people’s ability to identify ob-
ject materials on the basis of impact sounds (that is, when something strikes
an object). These researchers demonstrated that people could discriminate al-
most perfectly between the various material categories on the basis of sound
(e.g., steel–glass versus wood–plexiglass). The available functional magnetic
resonance imaging (fMRI) research here suggests that a sub-region in the
ventro-medial pathway appears to be specialized for the task of auditory ma-
terial perception (Arnott et al., 2008).
A particularly rich vein of research on auditory assessment of material prop-
erties relates specifically to the material qualities of foods that are associated
with the sounds resulting from oral mastication (see Spence, 2015; Zampini
and Spence, 2004, for a review); think here only of the qualities of crisp,
crunchy, crackly, squeaky that are sometimes experienced in food. Indeed, as
Fujisaki et al. (2014, p. 1) have noted: material perception is a critical abil-
ity for animals to properly regulate behavioural interactions with surrounding
objects (e.g., eating)” (see also Nagano et al., 2014).
In terms of other material properties, research has been conducted to show
that while the majority of people do not believe that they could determine
whether a liquid is hot or cold simply by listening to the sounds of pouring (cf.
Stuckey, 2012), most of us turn out to be significantly better than chance at this
task. Under forced-choice conditions, using nothing more than auditory cues,
people are able to correctly distinguish the sound of recently boiled water from
water that has been removed from the fridge instead (Velasco et al., 2013a, b;
see also Wildes and Richards, 1988, on the recovery of material properties
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from sound). In the case of liquids such as water, viscosity changes due to
temperature lead to a distinctive change in pitch (Parthasarathy and Chhapgar,
1955). It would appear, then, that we internalize this, and other, environmental
statistics (Peeva et al., 2004), despite the fact that we typically tend to use
thermal and/or visual cues to make such an assessment of the temperature of
an environmental stimulus (Note 3) (cf. Fenko et al., 2010a; Wastiels et al.,
The sounds of opening and closing product packaging also convey useful
information (see Wang and Spence, 2019, for a review). Recently, for example,
it has been demonstrated that people tend to rate wine as tasting better (i.e.,
as being of higher quality) when they hear the sound of a cork-stoppered bot-
tle being opened rather than when they hear a screw-cap bottle being opened
instead (Spence and Wang, 2017). In fact, there is a rich literature of research
that has investigated the influence of the sounds of packaging opening and
usage in the food and beverage category (Spence and Wang, 2015).
The sound of car engines, not to mention car doors, and even the sound of
the dashboard when tapped with the knuckles, are important and longstanding
areas of psychoacoustics research too (Kanie et al., 1987; Montignies et al.,
2010; see Spence and Zampini, 2006, for a review). There is also an intriguing
literature on the design of push-button sounds too (Altinsoy, 2020). Academic
researchers have worked hard to modify the sounds made by products such
as cigarette lighters (Lageat et al., 2003), air-conditioning units (Susini et al.,
2004), and vacuum cleaners (Wolkomir, 1996). Even the sound of closure of
the mascara, or the distinctive pop of the Snapple bottle has been engineered to
sound ‘just so’ (Byron, 2012), to provide, in other words, the sound of quality
(e.g., Ozcan and van Egmond, 2012; see also Avanzini and Crosato, 2006;
Kim et al., 2007).
5.3. Olfactory Shitsukan Perception
As far as the chemical senses are concerned, researchers have investigated
the perception of the olfactory quality of scents/perfumes (e.g., studying the
perception of complexity, and aesthetic appreciation; e.g., Rabin, 1988; Schiff-
mann, 1974). There is also a separate literature on those factors influencing the
assessment of the (material) quality of food and drink. The latter, note, often
being subsumed within the literature on sensory science/sensory studies, and
hence published in journals such as Food Quality & Preference and the Jour-
nal of Sensory Studies.
5.4. Interim Summary
As the results reviewed in this section demonstrate, shitsukan perception oc-
curs in the tactile, auditory, and olfactory modalities when experienced uni-
modally (see also Haase and Wiedmann, 2018). Of course, that said, the
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‘million dollar question’ here is whether those assessments of shitsukan, or
material quality, that are made under unisensory conditions have any predic-
tive value as far as what people will perceive, or report, under conditions where
multiple senses may be used in product evaluation (Ballesteros et al., 2005).
Indeed, given that visual dominance is such a ubiquitous feature of our object
identification (Posner et al., 1976; Spence, 2011a), the contribution of non-
visual cues to shitsukan perception might well be expected to be less important
than might perhaps be suggested on the basis of the unisensory studies that
have been reviewed above (though see also Hershberger and Misceo, 1996;
Komatsuzaki et al., 2016).
6. Multisensory Contributions to Shitsukan Perception
While the unisensory assessment of shitsukan undoubtedly constitutes an in-
teresting line of laboratory research, out in the real world, our experience
and evaluation of material properties is typically based on multisensory cues.
Importantly, a large body of empirical research demonstrates that any product-
intrinsic (not to mention some product-extrinsic) sensory inputs are com-
bined to deliver multisensory shitsukan perception (see also Qiao et al., 2014;
Schütte et al., 2008). Understandably, many researchers have been interested
in trying to understand the rules of multisensory integration and how they re-
late to the perception of shitsukan/material quality (e.g., Fujisaki et al., 2014;
Lederman et al., 1986; cf. Ernst and Banks, 2002). As was mentioned earlier,
Bayesian causal inference, built on the Maximum-Likelihood Estimation ap-
proach (Ernst and Banks, 2002), has seemingly done an excellent job in this
regard (e.g., Fujisaki et al., 2014; Peters et al., 2018; Yanagisawa and Takat-
suji, 2015).
However, while vision normally dominates, it is important to note that vi-
sual cues do not always allow for the accurate prediction of non-visual material
properties. As Fujisaki et al. (2014) suggest, vision is more useful for as-
sessing surface properties whereas auditory cues may be more informative
concerning the internal properties of a material or object. This was shown by
Wastiels et al. (2013) in those participants (studying architecture) in the case
of the estimated properties of various building materials. Indeed, while visual
cues tend to dominate multisensory material perception, there are also some
notable exceptions. So, for instance, Adams et al. (2016) have reported that
visual glossiness can be affected by the haptic slipperiness of a surface.
Nagai, Matsushima, Koida, Tani, Kitazaki and Nakauchi (2015) have re-
ported that it takes longer for people to process non-visual than visual material
properties, though this presumably has a lot to do with differences in the man-
ner of exploration in the different senses (Owens et al., 2016; Sun et al., 2016).
Being able to ascertain the felt weight of an object or especially product in the
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hand is undoubtedly important in terms of shitsukan, given that it turns out to
be one of the key factors influencing the perception of quality (e.g., Jostmann
et al., 2009; Kampfer et al., 2017; Michel et al., 2015; Piqueras-Fiszman and
Spence, 2012; Schneider et al., 2011; and see Spence and Piqueras-Fiszman,
2011, for a review).
6.1. Auditory Contributions to Multisensory Shitsukan Perception
In terms of auditory contributions to multisensory shitsukan, the perception of
felt texture is often influenced by modifying any sounds that are elicited by the
interaction (e.g., Altinsoy, 2008, 2020; Guest et al., 2002; Jousmäki and Hari,
1998; Suzuki et al., 2006, 2008; and again see Werner and von Schiller, 1932,
for early work in this area). For instance, several studies of the ‘parchment
skin’ illusion have revealed that people’s perception of their own skin can be
modified simply by changing the sound of the interaction when they rub their
hands together in front of a microphone (see also Senna et al., 2014, on the
marble hand illusion). Guest and colleagues adapted this approach in order to
demonstrate that it was also possible to modify people’s perception of sand-
paper samples (i.e., surface properties unrelated to the body). The participants
in the latter’s studies rubbed a selection of swatches (that were hidden out of
sight in a box; see Fig. 2) with a finger by modifying the sounds made by the
interaction with the material, building on earlier work by Lederman (1979) on
auditory texture perception (see also Lemaitre and Heller, 2012).
Sound, in other words, is an integral part of our interaction with the major-
ity of materials, objects, and products. Adding that sound, or modifying it, has
been shown to influence people’s perception/behaviour in a diverse range of
situations including, in one case, in an augmented reality clothing setting in
a fashion store mirror application (Ho et al., 2013). In this study, the sounds
of different realistic jacket materials rustling were synchronized with people’s
movements when standing in front of an augmented mirror that allowed them
to try on virtual clothing visually. Meanwhile, in another project, we demon-
strated that modification of the sound made when women walked in high heels
on an augmented catwalk significantly influenced both their impressions and
emotional reactions (Tonetto et al., 2014). In particular, the sound that the
female participants heard when either of their heels touched the ground was
changed in order to convey different shoe and floor material interactions, some
louder than others (see also Bresin et al., 2010; Furfaro et al., 2015; Serafin et
al., 2011; Turchet et al., 2010).
In earlier research, Zampini et al. (2003) had modified the sound made
by an electric toothbrush (boosting or cutting the high frequency components
of the sound of the motor). Once again, this experimental manipulation was
found to influence the perception of those who used the product. And staying
with the mouth for a moment, sonic cues have also been added to modify the
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Figure 2. The experimental set-up used in Guest et al.s (2002) study of the auditory contri-
butions to multisensory perception of surface texture. (a) This panel shows the experimenter’s
view of the automated wheel on which were mounted several different samples of sandpaper,
hidden from the participant’s view. (b) A close-up of the participant’s finger contact with the
material. The results of this study demonstrated that auditory cues exert a significant influence
over the perception of tactile texture, at least under those conditions where vision is precluded.
perceived texture of crispy foods (e.g., Masuda and Okajima, 2011; Zampini
and Spence, 2004; see Spence, 2015, for a review). Researchers in Japan have
even investigated whether the sound of the appropriate food texture can be
used to help those elderly individuals forced to eat pureed meals to enjoy their
food more (Endo et al., 2016, 2017; Fujisaki, 2020). Finally here, Spence and
Zampini (2007) modified the sound made by an aerosol spray deodorant while
in use and showed a crossmodal influence on users’ perception of the product
and its powerfulness.
6.2. Olfactory Contributions to Multisensory Shitsukan Perception
As far as olfactory cues to the multisensory perception of material/product
quality are concerned, the classic study was published by Laird (1932) almost
90 years ago. Laird reported that women’s judgements of the quality of silk
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stockings depended on the scent with which the stockings had been impreg-
nated. The 250 housewives in Laird’s study were shown to prefer stockings
with a narcissus scent over those with a ‘natural’ scent, even though the stock-
ings were otherwise identical. Intriguingly, when asked for the reason behind
their preference for one pair of stockings over the others, the majority of those
questioned apparently pointed to differences in durability, sheen, or weave
(i.e., to differences in the tactile and/or visual material properties), rather than
to differences in their olfactory properties. This observation provides an early
example suggesting that we are sometimes unaware of the sensory inputs that
may actually be driving our perceptual decisions.
Demattè et al. (2006) followed up on Laird’s (1932) seminal early study,
demonstrating that olfactory cues influenced the tactile perception of fab-
ric softness using computer-controlled stimulus presentation (i.e., an eight-
channel olfactometer and a fabric carousel). The results revealed that partici-
pants rated fabric swatches as feeling significantly softer when presented with
a lemon odour than when presented with an animal-like odour instead, thus
demonstrating once again that olfactory cues can indeed modulate tactile per-
ception. Meanwhile, Churchill et al. (2009) have reported that the addition of
a variety of fragrances modified the perceived textural properties of shampoo
and hair.
At the other end of the spectrum in terms of quality perception, it is worth
drawing attention to the anecdotal reports hinting at the profound effect played
by ‘new car smell’ in modifying people’s perception of a vehicle (Moran
2000a, b, c; Van Lente and Herman, 2001). What is more, such crossmodal
influences on the perception of quality do not just affect the consumer’s per-
ception of a new vehicle, but also appear to modify people’s perception of
their own vehicles following servicing. Just take the reports from SC Gor-
don Ltd, coachbuilders of Rolls-Royce cars, who have developed their own
unique new car smell designed specifically to mimic the aromatic blend of
leather and wood of a vintage 1965 Silver Cloud model. The ‘car cologne’
is applied when new cars come in for repair. According to Hugh Hadland,
Managing Director of the company, People say they don’t understand what
we’ve done,but that their cars come back different and better (quote from
Spence, 2002). It seems that just one squirt of the luxury perfume is enough
to restore that sense of luxury in even the most expensive of consumer pur-
chases. Of course, such an olfactorily-inspired approach can also be used to
add value when it comes to reselling a car (Aikman, 1951; Hamilton, 1966;
Wright, 1966). And finally here, though beyond the scope of the present arti-
cle, it should also be mentioned that there is an intriguing literature examining
how the introduction/manipulation of olfactory cues can influence people’s
perception/reception of works of art (e.g., Cirrincione et al., 2014; Pursey and
Lomas, 2018).
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6.3. A Taste of Shitsukan
Research conducted over the last decade or so has demonstrated the impor-
tant role played by the metal in which a spoon has been coated on gustatory
perception (e.g., Laughlin et al., 2009, 2011; Piqueras-Fiszman et al., 2012).
Indeed, several studies have assessed people’s ability to determine the mate-
rial properties of stimuli when placed in the mouth (e.g., Howes et al., 2014;
Jacobs et al., 1998). Importantly, such effects were demonstrated by Piqueras-
Fiszman and her colleagues in the absence of any visual input (that is, the
participants were blindfolded). In the latter study, participants tasted samples
of cream that were slightly sweet, sour, bitter, salty, or plain. The samples were
tasted from spoons that were identical in terms of their size and weight, but
had been coated in zinc, copper, gold, and stainless steel. The results showed
that the taste properties of the creams were influenced by the material prop-
erties of the spoons, thus providing an example of gustatory contributions to
material perception.
Here, of course, it is interesting to note that any gustatory influence of
the spoon identified under conditions of blind tasting in Piqueras-Fiszman et
al.’s (2012) study may simply be overridden by any visual associations that
a consumer may have when interacting with such cutlery (see Spence and
Piqueras-Fiszman, 2014). That is, while one metal might improve the taste of
foods (or rather enhance a specific taste attribute, such as salty, bitter or sour)
when a taster is denied vision, it is easy to imagine how catching sight of a
gold spoon, say, might immediately set specific quality expectations (i.e., af-
fective, and possibly also sensory) and hence dominate, or modify, the ensuing
product experience (see Aldersey-Williams, 2011) (Note 4). Note here also the
fact that Harrar and Spence (2013) have documented a modest influence of the
colour of plastic spoons on the taste of yoghurt too.
7. Context and Product-Extrinsic Influences
The senses typically provide complementary information concerning the ma-
terial properties of an object or surface in the natural world. However, that is
by no means always the case (see Björkman, 1967; and Stanton and Spence,
2020, for a review). As we have seen already, the senses sometimes access
more-or-less modality-specific material properties. According to Fenko et al.
(2010b), though, the relative importance of the different senses often changes
over the various stages of product interaction/lifespan (e.g., from initial pur-
chase through to eventual disposal). What is more, either deliberately, or
accidentally, incongruent sensory cues are occasionally associated with the
impressions delivered by the different senses in augmented or virtual reality
settings (McGee et al., 2002). Relatively small differences in the impression
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delivered by the different senses may well not be noticed, in part because they
may be eliminated as a result of multisensory integration (i.e., often visual
dominance). However, when the difference between the senses becomes too
large, the discrepancy may well become apparent to the observer. One of the
important unanswered questions in this research area concerns the magnitude
of the intersensory discrepancy at which crossmodal binding switches to seg-
regation (see Chen and Spence, 2017) this is related to the causal inference
problem in multisensory perception (Körding et al., 2007).
Sensory incongruency is sometimes deliberately used by designers. Such
incongruency may either give rise to hidden or visible novelty (e.g., Ludden
and Schifferstein, 2007; Ludden et al., 2009; see also Schifferstein and Spence,
2008). Visible novelty is apparent even without the observer having to inter-
act physically with the object, whereas hidden novelty may only reveal itself
when interacting physically with the object. One example of the latter is of-
fered by those vases that look like they are made of cut glass, but which are
actually made of plastic, and so are much lighter than expected when they are
picked up (see Schifferstein and Spence, 2008). Anecdotally, hidden novelty
can lead to memorable material interactions. For instance, I vividly remem-
ber the occasion more than a decade ago when picking up what looked like
a regular vellum envelope in a Michelin-starred restaurant. I was shocked to
discover that it actually had the feel of skin (Note 5). Neuroimaging research
suggests that visual–tactile material incongruency gives rise to activation in the
precuneus (Kitada et al., 2014). As yet, however, and as noted already, there
has been relatively little neuroimaging research specifically on multisensory
incongruency in the case of material perception.
In the case of food experience, such surprising experiences of the food/dish
are often desirable and, in some cases, even increasingly expected by din-
ers, especially those visiting modernist establishments (e.g., Spence, 2017;
Vel as c o et al., 2016). There is some intriguing research on the material prop-
erties of foods that are, for example, associated with freshness (Arce-Lopera
et al., 2012; Imura et al., 2016; see also Meert et al., 2014). At the same time,
however, there is also an emerging interest in trying to change the material
properties of food by means of augmented reality (e.g., Huang et al., 2019;
Ueda et al., submitted).
7.1. Product-Extrinsic Influences
While much of the research on material perception has tended to focus on
the influence of product-intrinsic cues, i.e., cues such as roughness or shape
that can be discerned both visually and haptically (e.g., Bergmann Tiest and
Kappers, 2007), an emerging body of research has started to highlight the im-
portance of a variety of contextual cues, such as the influence of background
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music on tactile evaluation. So, for example, one study documented a signif-
icant effect of sexy music on ratings of the sexiness of the tactile stimulation
delivered by a robotic stroking device (Fritz et al., 2017). Meanwhile, other
researchers have recently reported that soft music (defined as slower-tempo,
smooth-flowing rhythms, smoothly connected legato-like notes and consonant
harmony, string instruments, and less variation in volume) modulates people’s
ratings of the softness of material (see Imschloss and Kuenhl, 2019) (Note 6).
Of course, at one level, the use of fragrance to modify material perception
might also be considered an example of a product-extrinsic cue. Indeed, the
influence of fragrance on product perception often appears to occur regardless
of whether that fragrance is perceived to have originated from the product or
material, or merely to be present as a contextual cue (see Demattè et al., 2006;
Spence, 2002). As yet, I am not aware of relevant research that has attempted
to assess whether the integration of information presented in different modal-
ities differs between the two cases (i.e., depending on whether the odorant is
treated as being product-intrinsic or merely present in the atmosphere)
At the same time, however, it would also appear that the consumer’s re-
sponse to deliberate ‘designed’ intersensory incongruency is also determined,
in part, by the context in which it is presented: think high-end design store vs.
IKEA, or Michelin-starred modernist restaurant versus canteen (Schifferstein
and Spence, 2008; see also Sundar and Noseworthy, 2016a, b). Sundar and
Noseworthy have reported on some intriguing work looking at cross-sensory
congruency/incongruency as a function of people’s perception of the pur-
ported company/brand involved. They suggest that different strategies may be
more appropriate for different brands/brand personalities. In particular, visual–
tactile incongruency in packaging design appears to be better received for
those brands that are rated as exciting (see also Littel and Orth, 2013). Sundar
and Noseworthy conducted field and laboratory studies in which their partic-
ipants were presented with products packaged in such a way that they either
looked and felt textured (crossmodally congruent), or they looked textured
but felt like something else (crossmodally incongruent). The results showed
that ‘sincere’ brands (like Hallmark, Ford, Coca-Cola) were preferred when
there was crossmodal congruency, while those brands that were judged more
exciting (BMW, Pepsi, Mountain Dew) were preferred when there was incon-
gruency between the seen and felt texture of the packaging instead.
Another kind of perceptual switch between mismatching appearance cues
occurs when products or surfaces present images on the underlying sub-
strate/surface (e.g., Childs and Henson, 2007; Jansson-Boyd and Marlow,
2007). While the image, in such cases, is normally key, there are occasions
where a deliberate attempt is made by the creator to draw the viewer’s atten-
tion to the tactile/haptic/textural attributes of such surfaces. This is captured
in the following quote from Durand (1995, p. 150) who describes how the
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viewer’s attention may shift from the vision impression to touch/haptics while
inspecting a photograph, and how the very frame of reference/object of atten-
tion changes in the process: It is interesting also to take into account those
points at which perception shifts from one regime to another for example,
how in some photographs attention moves from the thing represented to an
awareness of texture,say the grain of the skin or the weave of foliage as they
become identified with the photographic texture itself.When that happens,it
is a real event,a moment of purely visual thought that takes place as we
shift from a regime of pure opticality to the optical-tactile (or ‘optical-haptic’
in Alois Riegl’s terminology”(Note7).
Another area of interest in terms of the impact of contextual cues on ma-
terial perception concerns what happens when people respond to objects as a
function of where those objects are handled (e.g., museum or science labora-
tory), or what people are told about the provenance of what they are handling
(rare artefact or cheap replica). While none of the various grant applications
that I have been involved in on this very topic were ever funded, I nevertheless
still find the question to be both intriguing and important (see Chatterjee, 2008;
Pye, 2007). In somewhat conceptually-related research, it has been shown that
what people believe about other kinds of tactile stimulation (e.g., whether they
believe a skin cream to be cheap or expensive, or who they believe to be
stroking their arm) can influence both the behavioural and neural responses
to that touch that can be observed (e.g., McCabe et al., 2008).
8. Conclusions
Despite the evident, and to an extent understandable, focus on the visual as
far as research on the theme of shitsukan is concerned (see Komatsu and
Goda, 2018, for a recent authoritative review), it is important to remember
that our experience of the material qualities that we physically evaluate is typi-
cally a multisensory experience (e.g., Schifferstein and Hekkert, 2008; Spence,
2009a). And while visual cues may very well, and very often, dominate the
resulting experience and hence judgement (see Posner et al., 1976; Spence,
2011a), that does not mean that the other senses can be ignored, even though
they are undoubtedly harder to render digitally, at least given the currently
available technology. What is more, as we have seen, there are a number of
situations in which one of the non-visual senses dominates, or else modulates
multisensory quality perception (see Adams et al., 2016; Fujisaki et al., 2014;
Lederman et al., 1986).
Ultimately, it is important to remember that shitsukan is a fundamentally
multisensory construct, one that, as we have seen time-and-again throughout
this review, can be influenced by what we hear, feel, smell, and even, on oc-
casion, what we taste/feel in the mouth (see Howes et al., 2014). And true to
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the insights of ‘humaneering’ (otherwise known as ‘consumer engineering’), a
movement that emerged in North America after the Great Depression, it is the
subtle effects, like the feeling experienced by the hand on coming into contact
with the lining of the fur coat, or the arbitrary scent applied to the stockings
in Laird’s (1932) classic study, that can really make all the difference to our
evaluation of products (e.g., Sheldon and Arens, 1932; see also Cox, 1967).
At the same time, however, it is also important to bear in mind that the sensory
interactions observed when one sense is removed (such as when participants’
vision is occluded), may not be the same as those that are observed when all
of the consumers’ senses are in operation.
Another area of growing interest is to study crossmodal correspondences
in relation to material properties, both establishing underlying correspon-
dences, but then also investigating how they influence perception/evaluation
(Bliglevens et al., 2009; Decré and Cloonan, 2019; Imschloss and Kuenhl,
2019). The latter would likely seem like an area that will become increasingly
important to those working in the area of material perception in the years ahead
(see also Spence, in press). Indeed, there is growing interest in trying to convey
material properties such as pinching and scrunching fabric via mobile devices
(see Cano et al., 2017; Xiao et al., 2016). What is more, an added benefit of
enabling tactile interaction via digital channels is the likely increase in per-
ceived ownership that such tactile interactions appear to induce (Brengman et
al., 2019; see also Pantoja et al., 2020).
The last few years have seen a rapidly expanding interest in the area of
augmented retail, as for, example, in the case of online clothing/shopping
applications (e.g., de Vries et al., 2018; Flavian et al., 2019; Heller et al.,
2019; Xiao et al., 2016). There is also growing interest in the design of ma-
terial/object interaction sounds, in everything from push-buttons (Mortensen
et al., 2009) to sporting equipment (Roberts et al., 2005; see Stanton and
Spence, 2020, for a review). Interest has also grown in the area of multisensory
contributions to product packaging (Balaji et al., 2011; see also Chen et al.,
2009), and in particular, the learnt associations that may drive product percep-
tion/evaluation (De Kerpel et al., 2020; Marckhgott and Kamleitner, 2019).
All of these, then, represent promising areas for explicitly multisensory/cross-
modal shitsukan research.
1. Product designers have, though, managed to physically render many
hyper-realistic surface textures (Hara, 2004; Lupton, 2007).
2. A similar theme runs through Lipps and Lupton’s (2018) recent volume,
The senses:Design beyond vision. The latter catalogue covers many of
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the design objects presented at an exhibition held at the Cooper-Hewitt
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3. Wang and Spence (2017) have also shown that temperature can, in some
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4. Relevant here, the available research also shows how being able to see
and feel the wine glass radically modifies/enhances the tasting experience,
even though in the absence of such cues, no difference between the experi-
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Spence, 2011c, for a review).
5. This, I suspect, much better that the sandpaper envelope in which
the bill is currently presented in London restaurant Restaurant Story
(, presumably corresponding to the pain of
6. Such findings can perhaps be seen as building on earlier research where
Reinoso Carvalho demonstrated that the creaminess of a luxury chocolate
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