This study investigated the effects of modifying contact finger forces in one direction—normal or tangential—on the entire set of the contact forces, while statically holding an object. Subjects grasped a handle instrumented with finger force-moment sensors, maintained it at rest in the air, and then slowly: (1) increased the grasping force, (2) tried to spread fingers apart, and (3) tried to squeeze fingers together. Analysis was mostly performed at the virtual finger (VF) level (the VF is an imaginable finger that generates the same force and moment as the four fingers combined). For all three tasks there were statistically significant changes in the VF normal and tangential forces. For finger spreading/squeezing the tangential force neutral point was located between the index and middle fingers. We conclude that the internal forces are regulated as a whole, including adjustments in both normal and tangential force, instead of only a subset of forces (normal or tangential). The effects of such factors as EFFORT and TORQUE were additive; their interaction was not statistically significant, thus supporting the principle of superposition in human prehension.
Joel R. Martin, Mark L. Latash, and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky (Corresponding Author) are with the Department of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.