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LATERALITY, 2006, 11 (2), 170180

Tactile precision in right-handed archery experts with


visual disabilities: A pseudoneglect effect?
J. P. Coudereau
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Marseille, France

N. Gueguen
UMR CNRS, Marseille, France

M. Pratte
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Marseille, France

E. Sampaio
Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers (CNAM), Paris, France
Space perception was investigated in two groups of participants with severe visual
deficiencies performing a tactile bisection task: the participants in the first group
(Archers) regularly practised a high-precision sport, whereas those in the second
group (Non-Archers) had never practised this activity. Experiments were carried
out to determine whether practising this sport might affect the pseudoneglect
(resulting in a deviation to the left of the perceived midpoint with respect to the
actual physical midpoint) occurring in sighted persons (Bowers & Heilman, 1980)
as well as in completely blind children (Sampaio, Gouarir, & Mvondo Mvondo,
1995). No particular deviation was observed in the group of Non-Archers, whereas
pseudoneglect was present in the Archers' group. A significant hand effect (left/
right), and a significant effect of starting point of tactile exploration were observed
across groups. This confirms the existence of a relationship between hemisphere
hands and hemispherehemispace mechanisms. The results obtained here show
that practising archery affects pseudoneglect.

This study focuses on the perception of space in visually deprived people, in


terms of the pseudoneglect shown by the participants in a tactile bisection task.
The term ``pseudoneglect'' originated in the neglect literature. People with
neglect disorders resulting from brain lesions have a tendency to ignore the
Address correspondence to J. P. Coudereau, Genomique Fonctionnelle, Comportements et
Pathologies, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 31 Chemin Joseph Aiguier, 13402
Marseille Cedex, France. Email: coudereau@dpm.cnrs-mrs.fr
# 2005 Psychology Press Ltd
http://www.psypress.com/laterality
DOI:10.1080/13576500500430380

PSEUDONEGLECT, VISUAL DISABILITY, AND ARCHERY

171

portion of space that is no longer normally perceived by the injured part of the
brain (Gainotti, 1987). When bisecting a horizontal line presented to the medial
axis of the person's body, left neglect patients section the line to the right of the
real centre (Heilman & Valenstein, 1979; Reuter-Lorentz & Posner, 1990). They
perceive the space located on their left as being much smaller than it actually is.
In studies of this kind, these neglect (or hemi-inattention) processes have been
attributed to either a reduced capacity for processing space in the injured right
hemisphere, or deficient attentional processes. While the inverse relationship
between right hemisphere and left hemisphere lesions is generally recognised,
the right-hand hemi-inattention observed in the case of left hemisphere lesions
has given rise to much more controversy (Bradshaw, Nathan, Nettleton, Wilson,
& Pierson, 1987).
The regions situated on each side of the median axis of the body are called
hemispaces. It therefore seems likely that stimuli reaching the two hemispaces in
neglect patients are perceived in an asymmetrical way. The asymmetry
favouring the left during a visual bisection task in otherwise intact individuals
and in children with a severe visual handicap since birth (Sampaio & Chokron,
1992; Sampaio et al., 1995; Scarisbrick, Tweedy, & Kulansky, 1987) is referred
to as pseudoneglect. In the context of tactile kinaesthetic abilities (Bowers &
Heilman, 1980; Bradshaw, Nettleton, Nathan, & Wilson, 1983; Ramos-Brieva,
Olivan, Palomares, & Vela, 1984), pseudoneglect is also referred to as underestimation of the left-hand side. In both cases, the asymmetry can be corrected
when gravitational body information is dissociated from the extra-corporal space
by imposing either a 90-degree rotation of the head (to the left or right) or
adopting a horizontal posture consisting of leaning to one side or the other
(Bradshaw et al., 1983; Bradshaw, Nettleton, Nathan, & Wilson, 1985).
Based on classical theories of perception, according to which an isotropic
space (a homogeneous substance that has the same properties in all directions) is
perceived symmetrically when the participant is placed in the middle of it
(Piaget, 1969), the authors of various studies have attempted to distinguish, in
the tactile modality, between the effects of the hemifield factors (transmission of
information to the contralateral hemisphere), and those of the hemispace factors
involved (the location of the stimuli in the extra-corporal space, i.e., to the left or
right of the body centre) without taking into account the information received in
the cerebral hemispheres. These studies involved tasks where the participants
moved their hands from one hemispace to the other while keeping their head and
body vertical in the middle of the space in question.
Using a tactile bisection task carried out under three spatial conditions (left
hemispace, right hemispace, and middle conditions), Bowers and Heilman
(1980) observed a lack of accuracy when the bisection took place in the right
hemispace and in the middle. In addition, the participants' responses deviated to
the left of the actual physical centre in the ``middle'' and ``right hemispace''
conditions: this corresponds exactly to the pseudoneglect phenomenon described

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above. Other tests carried out by Sampaio and Philip (1991) and Bradshaw et al.
(1983) showed the occurrence of a significant interaction between hand and
spatial location: the left hand was more accurate than the right hand in the
``middle'' condition. Research with congenitally blind adults has shown that
these people tend to place the subjective centre to the right of the actual physical
centre in bisection tasks (Bradshaw, Nettleton, & Wilson, 1986). Some studies
have also shown that blind people did not perform some spatial tasks efficiently
(Hatwell, 1986; Millar, 1981; O'Connor & Hermelin, 1978; Rieser, Lockam, &
Pick, 1980).
The present study was carried out on two groups of participants with severe
visual deficits performing a tactile-kinaesthetic bisection task in the ``middle''
spatial situation. The first group consisted of participants who regularly practised a high-precision sport (archery, at regional level) and were rated B1
according to the International Blind Sport Association (IBSA) system of classification. The participants in the second group did not practise any sport at all.
The members of both groups were right-handed male adults.
The aim of these experiments was to determine whether regularly practising a
high-precision sport influences the space perception of people with a severe
visual handicap. In view of the visuo-spatial aptitudes required to perform the
task in question, it was expected that this tactile-kinaesthetic task would be
performed more accurately by the participants trained in archery. The underlying assumption here was that practising high-precision activities enhances the
perception of space in visually handicapped participants and attenuates the
processes resulting in pseudoneglect.

METHOD
Participants
Experiments were carried out on two groups of right-handed men with severe
visual disabilities. Their handedness was assessed using Bryden's (1977) fiveitem hand preference questionnaire. The first group consisted of 10 participants
regularly practising archery (at a rate of two to three training sessions per week).
Their mean age was 42.5 years, and their ages ranged between 29 and 57 years.
According to the IBSA (International Blind Sport Association) system of classification, these sportsmen belonged to the B1 category (no visual perception
with the left or right eye, inability to recognise shapes or silhouettes at any
distance and in any direction). These sportsmen used a special training method
involving the use of sound clues to gauge their accuracy. The second group
consisted of 10 participants practising no high-precision sport such as archery or
shooting. Their mean age was 40.7 years, and their ages ranged between 29 and
52 years.
The aetiology of the handicap was of various kinds: anoxia, glaucoma,
tumour, bilateral atrophy, congenital illness, congenital bilateral cataract, and

PSEUDONEGLECT, VISUAL DISABILITY, AND ARCHERY

173

pigmentary retinitis. Whatever their aetiology, all the participants trained in


archery were in the B1 category.
This study was in keeping with the APA (American Psychological Association) code of ethics.

Materials
The stimuli used consisted of 10 sticks of balsa wood 2 mm wide and 1434
centimetres (14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 28, 30, 32, and 34 cm) long. Each stick was
fixed on to a small board measuring 10 cm by 36 cm, which was placed in the
middle of a large horizontal board. This system made it possible to block the
stimulus, to change it easily, and to make sure that the participant's body axis
(the sagittal axis in line with the nose and the sternum) was exactly opposite the
true centre of each stimulus. In addition, a semi-circular starting-point was cut
into the horizontal board so that the participants would consistently adopt and
maintain a central position. A needle was attached to the middle of each of the
participants' index fingers so that any deviations could be observed as finely as
possible.

Procedure
Participants were completely blindfolded with black goggles. The trial began
when the right or left index finger of the participant being tested had been placed
on one of the two ends (left or right) of the balsa stick stimulus. Contrary to what
was done in other experiments on pseudoneglect, the number of passages of the
finger along the stimulus was limited here, in order to reduce the number of
strategies possibly used by the participants, and to be able subsequently to
analyse the role of the starting position. Before determining the point that they
took to be the middle of the piece of wood, the participants were asked to run
their finger along the piece of wood and back three times without stopping, from
one end to the other. The direction (from left to right or vice versa) in which the
stimulus was explored was noted. All the lengths were presented eight times,
and each length was explored in four different ways; in the case of the left hand,
two trials were run starting at the right end of the stick and two trials starting at
the left end, and the same procedure was used in the case of the right hand. The
two scores obtained were averaged for statistical analysis. Then 40 values were
used for each participant. Before each presentation to a participant, the hand, the
starting end, and the length of the stick to be used for the trial were drawn at
random, so that the participants remained ``naive'' and could not learn
sequences. Errors were determined to the closest millimetre using a point in the
middle of the participant's index finger, and were defined as the difference
between the mid-point of the stick indicated by the participant and the actual
physical middle of the stick presented. Negative values were taken to indicate

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errors to the left of the exact centre, and positive values, errors to the right of the
exact centre of the stimulus.

Data analysis
Values were the distance between the objective midpoint (pointed by the participant) and the subjective midpoint (the actual physical middle of the stick)
measured to the nearest millimetre. Results were expressed as means + standard
deviations (SD). The data were analysed with a Student's t-test to compare the
mean values obtained with zero. Repeated measures ANOVAs using a 2 (Group)
6 2 (Hand) 6 2 (Starting end) 6 10 (Length of wooden stick) design were
used with Group (Archers and Non-Archers) as between-participants factor and
Hand (Left and Right), Starting end of the stick (Left and Right), and Length of
the stick (10 lengths) as within-participant factors. In case of significant effects,
the Bonferroni test was used for post-hoc comparisons.
G, E, H, R, L, l = Group, Starting End, Hand, Right, Left, length.
* means p < .05, ** means p < .01.

RESULTS
Accuracy: (absolute values)
The results obtained showed the existence of a significant difference between
the Archers (A) and Non-Archers (NA). The Non-Archers were found to be
more accurate on the whole than the Archers, NA: M = 0.98 + 0.78, A: M =
1.23 + 1.01; F(1, 18) = 13.14, p < .002. But this effect depended on the hand
used and on the starting point of the exploration because the ANOVA showed
the presence of an interaction between factors G*E*H, F(1, 18) = 6.42; p < .05.
The post-hoc tests showed a significant difference in accuracy between Archers
and Non-Archers (NA were more accurate) when they began exploring the
lengths of wood starting with right hand and left end (Figure 1).
There was a significant effect of stick length across groups, F(9, 162) = 4.78,
p < .001; participants were more accurate with short lengths (Figure 2).

Direction of deviation
The results showed the existence of a significant difference between Archers and
Non-Archers, F(1, 18) = 9.71; p < .01. The Non-Archers deviated less than the
Archers (NA = 0.04 + 1.2; A = 70.27 + 1.5) (Figure 3).
In both groups (Archers and Non-Archers), the participants deviated significantly as a function of left/right hand, F(1, 18) = 69.42; p < .0001. Participants
deviated significantly to the left of the midpoint when using their right hand (M =
70.45 + 1.3, t = 76.58, p < .0001). Participants deviated significantly to the right
of the midpoint when using their left hand (M = 0.22 + 1.4 , t = 3.05, p < .002).

Figure 1. Accuracy of Archers' and Non-Archers' performances (absolute values), depending on


the starting end on the stick and the hand used.

Figure 2. Influence of the length of the balsa sticks on accuracy (absolute values).

175

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Figure 3.

Archers' and Non-Archers' lateral deviation from the midpoint.

Deviations from the midpoint differed significantly depending on the starting


point (left/right), F(1, 18) = 15.53; p < .001. There was a main effect of starting
end: systematic deviations to the left occurred when the exploration began at the
right end (M = 70.45 + 1.31, t = 6.85, p < .0001) and to the right when the
exploration began at the left end of the stick (M = 0.22 + 1.48, t = 2.98,
p < .001).
In both groups (Archers and Non-Archers), participants deviated systematically (consistently) to the left in the right hand/right starting end condition
(RH, RE: M = 70.81 + 1.12, t = 10.25, p < .0001). They also deviated
systematically (consistently) to the right in the left hand/left starting end condition (LH, LE = 0.52 + 1.42, t = 5.19, p < .0001). No interaction between
Group and Length was observed, F(9, 162) = 1.4, ns.

DISCUSSION
The present results showed that three main significant factors (Starting End,
Hand used, and Group) affected the direction, and two main factors (Length and
Group) affected the accuracy of the participants' ability to determine the midpoints of the stimuli presented.
The perceptual asymmetries observed in the high-precision task performances of normally sighted participants have been explained in terms of neuronal transmission models. In the case of space perception, stimuli seem to be
perceived more clearly when they are presented in the contralateral perceptual
hemifield with respect to that specialised in perceptual information processing
(Bryden 1973; Kimura 1961, 1967; Moscovitch 1973). This hypothesis was
based on data obtained on the laterality of participants performing tactile tasks
involving, for example, discriminating between segments oriented at different
angles (Benton, Levin, & Varney, 1973; Benton, Varney, & Hamsher, 1978;

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Varney & Benton 1975) or with various three-dimensional shapes (Witelson,


1974).
Bowers and Heilman (1980) observed the occurrence of a significant interaction between hand and hemispace (i.e., the location of the stimulus in the
surrounding space, to the left or to the right of the mid-body) without taking the
information reaching the brain hemispheres into account. These authors concluded that the connections between hand and hemisphere and hemispace play
an important role in tasks of this kind. The effects of laterality, at least as far as
the tactile modality is concerned, seem to involve at least two factors: the
hemispheric mechanisms dealing with perception and/or the motor activities
occurring in the contralateral hemispatial field, and the connections between
each hemisphere and the contralateral sensorimotor paths involved (Bowers &
Heilman, 1980; Hatta & Yamamoyto, 1986).
In the present study, the performances of the Non-Archers were found to be
more accurate than those of the Archers when they began exploring the lengths
of wood starting with right hand and left end. These results are, in part, in
agreement with those obtained by Bowers and Heilman (1980). It is therefore
possible that interactions may occur between hemisphere and hemispace.
In previous studies, participants were allowed to run their finger along the
lengths of wood as many times as they wished, whereas only three movements
of this kind were allowed in our tests. Another parameter might come into play
in addition to the location and/or the hand: whether the direction of exploration
was from right to left or vice versa. When participants started to explore the stick
from the right end, they consistently judged the mid-point to be to the left of the
actual physical centre, and conversely, when they started at the left end, they
systematically deviated to the right. A similar tendency was observed in the
present study: when the participants started exploring the stick from the left,
they consistently deviated to the right, and vice versa. A similar pattern was
observed as regards the hand used: the left hand deviated to the right and the
right hand to the left when assessing the mid-point. Since the sensorimotor
control of the distal part of each arm is carried out by the contralateral hemisphere, it is possible that this hemisphere may process information originating
from the opposite attentional hemifield. In other words, each hemisphere might
seem to overestimate the hemispace it is responsible for processing because the
hand used is simultaneously dealing with both motor and sensory information.
It is possible to make a parallel between this hypothesis and the mapping
theory put forward by Bisiach and Luzzatti (1978). The latter authors suggested
that mental representations of the environment may be structured in a topographical way and seem to be constructed like a map in the brain. The process
whereby this visual image is evoked may be divided between the two hemispheres. The representational map postulated by Bisiach and Luzzatti may be
organised in such a way that each hemisphere builds up a representation in the
contralateral hemisphere. In this case, the tactile spatial information arising from

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the right hand would be stored in the left hemisphere, and that arising from the
left hemispace would be stored in the opposite hemisphere. This perceptual
processing scheme would be completed by connections between the two
hemispheres, via various anatomical paths (such as the corpus callosum) as well
as via the specific hemispace/hemisphere mechanisms.
The complete picture of the surrounding space perceived by a participant may
therefore result from the superimposition of the representations stored in both
the left and the right brain hemispheres.
In a study by Bradshaw et al. (1986), in which both hands were used at the
same time to carry out the task, no deviations were observed in the case of three
of the four blind participants who had suffered from poor visual perceptual
abilities since childhood. These authors suggested that long-term blindness
might affect not only the magnitude of the deviations but also the direction of
the asymmetry in comparison with normally sighted participants performing
tactile kinaesthetic tasks. The present findings on Non-Archers, who showed no
deviations from the mid-point, are in line with those of Bradshaw. The signs of
pseudonegligence observed, on the contrary, in the Archers' group might well be
attributable to their intensive practice of a high-precision sport.
Battachi, Franza, and Pain (1981) have suggested that the internal representation of space may have a kinaesthetic basis in people with long-term
blindness and a visual basis in sighted people.
Sampaio et al. (1995) studied the effects of development on tactile space
perception in sighted, totally blind, and partially blind children using a different
bisection task from that used by Bradshaw, Spataro, Harris, Netteleton, and
Bradshaw (1988). These authors detected different patterns of perception in the
three groups (deviations to the right in sighted children, deviations to the left in
totally blind children, and no deviations in the last group) and concluded that
past visual experience may not be crucial for tactile representation of lengths to
be possible (the accuracy of the participants' performances did not differ significantly from one group to another) but may affect the tactile representation
processes occurring in each hemispace (in terms of the direction of the
asymmetry).
The present experiments were similar to those carried out by Sampaio et al.
(1995). In addition, the people participating in our study showed severe levels of
blindness, and in most cases, the sensory loss had started during the early years
of childhood. The residual level of visual perception was similar in both groups.
It so happened that the Non-Archers were more accurate than the Archers, and
that their performances did not deviate from the centre.
In our Archer participants, we found signs of pseudoneglect. This finding was
contrary to our expectations, since we expected regular training in a high-precision sport to reduce the magnitude of the overestimates made in the left
hemisphere by these participants. Perhaps this asymmetry was actually due to
practising this high-precision sport. The special attention paid by these sports-

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179

men to the position of their arm in the left hemispace would seem to promote
some ``negligence'' on the opposite side.
To conclude, we did not find any pseudoneglect in the participants in the
Non-Archers group. Their performances do not seem to have depended on their
visual spatial representation abilities as strongly as they do in sighted people,
and their powers of tactile space representation were surprisingly accurate. The
overestimates occurring in the left hemispace in the Archers group may have
resulted from their specialisation in processing spatial information in the left
hemispace, and this may have led to a lack of attention to the right hemispace
and to an underestimation of spatial elements on this side, resulting in
pseudoneglect.
Tactile representation of space in people with severe long-term blindness
could involve superimposing representations based on the relationships between
hemisphere and hemispace and/or the connections between hand and hemisphere. Each hemisphere might be said to contain a map of the contralateral
hemispace, while at the same time tending to overestimate the magnitude of this
space. Superimposing the two ``tactile maps'' would eliminate the deviation to
one side or the other, except in the case of the present Archers, whose training
has led one hemisphere to be neglected in comparison with the other.
The fact that the Archers in the present study were less accurate than the NonArchers may have been due to the nature of the task, which required sensory
(more than motor) processing abilities, whereas in real archery situations the
processing would be more kinaesthetic. It is also worth mentioning the space in
which the test took place: under normal archery conditions, the space in which
the target is located is far away from the participant, whereas in our experiments
the target was located in a nearby space. This point may help to explain why the
Archers' performances were less accurate than they were expected to be.
Manuscript received 9 June 2005
Revised manuscript received 5 July 2005

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