Standard Article

Tactile Sensation

  1. Ryo Kitada1,
  2. Dianne T. V. Pawluk2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0974

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Kitada, R. and Pawluk, D. T. V. 2010. Tactile Sensation. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Queen's University, Canada

  2. 2

    Virginia Commonwealth University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


When you drive a car, you can sense pressure, vibrations, and warmth in your hands as you grip the steering wheel. You experience such events because contact with the steering wheel triggers activity in sensory receptors in your skin wherever contact occurs. These receptors respond to mechanical and/or thermal energy, leading to sensory experiences that are collectively described as tactile sensations. Other sensations you may have from your skin, including pain and itch, are not generally included in this definition. Tactile sensations are passively elicited as a result of stimulation by some external source. This is in contrast with haptic perception, which typically involves contact with the external environment through active manual exploration. These two modes of tactile experience result in an interesting distinction. When your skin is passively stimulated, you typically focus your attention on your internal subjective tactile sensations (although it is often possible to perceive external objects and their properties). In contrast, when you haptically explore, you tend instead to focus your attention on the external world.


  • cutaneous sensitivity;
  • haptic perception;
  • mechanical sensation;
  • thermal sensation;
  • somatosensory system