Haptic training devices can facilitate tactile skill development by providing repeatable exposures to rare stimuli. Extant haptic training simulator research primarily emphasizes realistic stimuli representation; however, the experiments reported herein suggest that providing augmented feedback can improve training effectiveness, even when the feedback is not natural. A novel clinical breast examination training device uses inflated balloons embedded in silicone to simulate breast lumps. Oscillating the balloon water pressure makes the lumps pulsate. The pulsating lumps are easier to detect than the static lumps used in current simulators, and this manipulation seems to effectively introduce trainees to small, deep lumps that are initially difficult to perceive. A study of 48 medical students indicates that training with the dynamic breast model increased the number of lumps detected, F(1, 47) = 9.34, p = .004, decreased the number of false positives, F(1, 47) = 5.78, p = .020, and improved intersimulator skill transfer, F(1, 47) = 26.56, p < .001. The results suggest that at least in this case, augmented, tactile feedback increases training effectiveness, despite the fact that the feedback does not attempt to mimic any physical phenomenon present in the natural stimulus. Applications of this research include training techniques and tools for improved detection of palpable cancers.
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