Museums visitors touch artworks they should not. We touch our phone on the table, even though we don’t need it. Why do we want to touch objects that we can clearly see? What is it that touch provides that vision does not?

Keywords: Touch, Haptic, Metacognition, Over-confidence 


Our new hypothesis  here is that we are more confident after touching rather than seeing an object, even when we are not de facto more precise or accurate. We call this a ‘Saint Thomas effect’, in reference to Thomas who doubted the return of Christ until he touched him.

At this stage we are:

Testing whether and how this confidence bias shows across a variety of tasks

Examining how our account explains the idea, found in philosophy and in common sense, that touch is ‘more objective’ than the other senses

Extending these findings to clinical studies (compulsive fact-checking by touch) and technology (is pressing buttons is more satisfying than simply selecting on a screen) New Paragraph

Our latest research updates:

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Our publications:

Fairhurst, M. T., Travers, E., Hayward, V., & Deroy, O. (2018). Confidence is higher in touch than in vision in cases of perceptual ambiguity. Nature Scientific reports, 8(1), 15604.

Deroy, O., & Fairhurst, M. (2019). Spatial Certainty. In Chen, Deroy & Spence (eds). Spatial Senses: Philosophy of Perception in an Age of Science. London : Routledge.

A discussion of our St Thomas effect in Aeon and The Week

Internships projects related to this project.

Merle Fairhurst
Merle Fairhurst

Project Lead

Ophelia Deroy
Ophelia Deroy


Vincent Hayward
Vincent Hayward