Too hot, too fast! Using the thermal grill illusion to explore dynamic thermal perception

Shriniwas Patwardhan, Anzu Kawazoe, David Kerr, Masashi Nakatani, Yon Visell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Citations (Scopus)


Thermal perception is important in the experience of touching real objects, and thermal display devices are of growing interest for applications in virtual reality, medicine, and wearable technologies. In this paper, we designed a new thermal display, and investigated the perception of spatially varying thermal stimuli, including the thermal grill illusion. The latter is a perceptual effect in which a burning sensation is elicited in response to touching a surface composed of spatially juxtaposed warm and cool areas. Using a computer controlled thermal display, we present experiments in which we measured temporal correlates of the perception of spatially inhomogeneous stimuli, or thermal grills. We assessed the intensity of responses elicited by thermal grill stimuli with different temperature settings, and measured the response time until the onset of burning sensations. We found that thermal grills elicited highly stereotyped responses. The experimental results also indicated that as the temperature difference increases, the intensity increases monotonically, while the response time decreases monotonically. Consequently, perceived intensity was inversely correlated with response time. Under current physiological explanations, responses to thermal stimuli depend on tissue heating, neural processing, and the spatial distribution (or juxtaposition) of surface temperatures. The results of this study could help to inform models accounting for these factors, enabling new applications of the thermal grill illusion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS 2018 - Proceedings
EditorsYon Visell, Katherine J. Kuchenbecker, Gregory J. Gerling
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781538654248
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May 9
Event2018 IEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS 2018 - San Francisco, United States
Duration: 2018 Mar 252018 Mar 28

Publication series

NameIEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS
ISSN (Print)2324-7347
ISSN (Electronic)2324-7355


Other2018 IEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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