Even with an object in plain sight and in close proximity, there is a lot more in front of us than meets our eye. By observing an object using our sense of touch, we are able to gather an entirely different set of observable data about the object - in particular, the 3D form and detail of the object that would be entirely unavailable to sight-only observation. 

Leonard Shapiro has developed a multi-sensory observation method, which crucially employs the sense of touch (as well as sight), coupled with the simultaneous act of drawing. It is called the Haptico-Visual Observation and Drawing (HVOD) method. In anatomy study, the benefits of observing using the HVOD method includes the i) enhanced observation of the 3D form of anatomical parts, ii) the cognitive memorization of anatomical parts as a 3D 'mental picture', iii) improved spatial orientation within the volume of anatomical parts and, iv) an ability to draw.

In 1987, Prof Roberta Klatzky and Prof Susan Lederman described a set of specialized patterns of manual exploration which they termed 'exploratory procedures' (EPs)* or stereotypical patterns of hand movements (see illustration below). These haptic exploratory procedures are linked to the acquisition of specific object properties which include the 3D form and volume of an object.

Because the hand is represented over a relatively large part of the sensory cortex (see illustration below), it is particularly suited to the haptic observation of the 3D form and volume of an object, via the EPs. 

The haptic exploration of an object and the act of drawing both involve the making of hand gestures. What we feel with the one hand, we draw with the other hand. When using the HVOD method, we actively apply the EPs, coupled with the simultaneous act of drawing which correspond to the EP gestures. In particular, we actively apply the EPs termed 'contour following', 'lateral motion' and 'enclosure' in order to observe the 3D form and volume of an object. The specific drawing gestures needed to re-present these EPs as marks on paper are referred as 'cross-contour' marks. 

A HVOD course is offered to health-care professionals, medical students and anatomists. This one-day course is a UCT Certificated, HPCSA accredited, CPD-points course. The HVOD observation method benefits improved awareness of anatomical variation - orthopaedic surgeons - surgical planning - improved spatial orientation and instrument management in laparoscopic surgery - MRI and CT interpretation - radiation oncology planning - palpation - forensic pathology using LODOX - rehumanizing the cadaver in medical humanities.

*Klatzky, R. L. and Lederman, S. J. (1987).  Hand Movements:  A window into haptic object recognition. Cognitive Psy­chology, 19(3), 342-368.  


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