Manipulation of attention within the somatosensory systems
Use of tactile displays will probably become more frequent in coming years e.g. the pilot’s stick shaker These inputs have also been shown to provide effective additional information augmenting visual displays (e.g., Hirsch, 1974; Jagacinski, Miller, and Gilson, 1979) in various settings. Hirsch reported that visual tracking performance could be improved by the simultaneous presentation of vibrotactile error feedback. Somatosensory inputs are not only tactile, but include temperature and pain channels. We employed stimuli that selectively excited tactile as well as painful inputs in order to evaluate the capacity of the latter system to grab attention. There are well established behavioural costs arising from the occurrence of sensory stimuli at the same spatial location which are separated in time. These costs, manifested as an Increase in RT to detection, are significantly reduced when the target is a mildly painful one - a pin prick. We suggest that exploiting the adaptive characteristics of this channel may provide an ‘open line’ to attentional processes in critical situations.