Perceived heaviness in the context of Newton's second law: Combined effects of muscle activity and lifting kinematics

Morgan L. Waddell, Justin Fine, Aaron D. Likens, Eric Amazeen, Polemnia Amazeen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Researchers generally agree that perceived heaviness is based on the actions associated with unsupported holding. Psychophysical research has supported this idea, as has psychophysiological research connecting muscle activity to the perceptions of heaviness and effort. However, the role of muscle activity in the context of the resulting motions has not been investigated. In the present study, perceptions of heaviness were recorded along with the electromyogram (EMG) of the lifting muscle and peak acceleration of the lift. Consistent with predictions derived from Newton's Second Law of motion (Force = Mass×Acceleration), normal and illusory perceptions of heaviness were a function of the ratio of muscle activity to lifting acceleration. These results identify a psychophysiological mechanism for heaviness perception based on the forces and motions associated with unsupported holding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-374
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016



  • EMG
  • Haptic perception
  • Heaviness perception
  • Lifting kinematics
  • Psychophysics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this