In contrast to the optic, the haptic sense, or sense of touch, has a "closeness" and immediacy which seems to escape technological mediation and evokes a more interior sense. The sense of touch is usually subordinated to the visual, which is identified with the conceiving mind over the perceiving body. (cf. also proprioceptive

In late nineteenth century psychology, the kindred functions of hand and eye were considered necessary to the experience of space. Touching was considered "a cruder scanning at close range," and seeing "a more subtle touching at a distance." Both were considered necessary for the visual perception of depth. "As is well known, children reach for the moon as we reach for a plate." (R. Vischer) Under the influence of Wilhelm Wundt, aestheticians tried to formulate theories based on physio-psychological concepts of perception. Thus, pleasurable movements of the eye might be correlated, by a principle of similarity, to aesthetically pleasing lines. For Robert Vischer, the rhythmic impression of form is "nothing other than the pleasant overall sensation of a harmonic series of self-motions, " while "irregular forms bother us, to use Wundt's apt phrase, like 'an unfulfilled expectation.'" ("On the Optical Sense of Form", p.97) 

For Alois Riegl, definite knowledge about the enclosed individual unity of single objects is only available through the sense of touch, through repeated perception of impenetrable points and subjective inductive thought. While touch yields knowledge about impenetrability and depth, the eye rapidly yields a sense of extension, through height and width. According to Riegl's psychology of perception, the eye only perceives colored planes and makes the objects of the external world appear to us only as a chaotic mixture. Visual depth perception comes through foreshortened silhouettes and shadows. But with unknown objects, we cannot distinguish depth, or differentiate between flat and curved planes, by visual means alone. A process of subjective thinking is required to create a coherent picture. 

According to Riegl, the ultimate goal of the visual arts during all of antiquity was in the representation of external objects as clear material entitites. (Late Roman Art Industry, "Architecture" pp 19-31) Since space cannot be individualized in a material shape, it could not become a subject for artistic creation. In fact, (deep) space needed to be suppressed as an obstacle to the understanding of absolute individuality. It was for this reason that Antique art ignored the third dimension of depth and represented objects as on the tactile plane, with foreshortening and shadow suppressed. Symmetry was emphasized as also belonging to the dimensions of the plane. But since some depth was required for the recognition of material individuality, ancient art worked in a shallow space, the space of relief, and emphasized the tactile connection of the parts. The development of Greek art from Egyptian lies in this tactile-optical realm, partway between close vision (Nahsicht) and distant vision (Fernsicht) -- the realm of normal vision (Normalsicht.) For Riegl, late Roman art became more purely optical and Fernisichtig . The plane of reference is no longer haptic. 

In architecture, mass composition, as opposed to spatial composition, is the result of a set of values which he attributes to the ancients and calls the Kunstwollen , or artistic will of the period. Thus in the early phase of antique art, the pyramid's clearly recognizable and completely detached exterior form, with its suppression of interior space and entry, serves to illustrate the desire to suppress space. Even when space was more practically necessary than in the tomb, the Egyptians were artistically reluctant to create it. Even vast spaces, such as Karnak, were filled with individual columns, and openings in the exterior walls were kept to the barest minimum. 

In the second, Greek phase of antique architecture, some optical synopsis and sense of depth is allowed, but still the chief responsibility of architecture is the limitation of space. The Greek columnar house and temple show recognitions of three-dimensionality in shadow and space. 

In late Roman churches (such as the pantheon) vast interior spaces were developed, in which free space was individualized, treated as a cubic material and captured in clear dimensions. Because of the constant alteration of depth (in the curved form) the Pantheon, according to Riegl, demands a much higher degree of subjective consciousness on the part of the beholder. 

Jean Piaget takes up the formation of haptic and optic schemas in his accounts of the origins of intelligence in children, differentiating, for example, between the "sucked breast" and the "seen breast." René Spitz describes the experiential shift that occurs during nursing, when the infant repeatedly loses the nipple and recovers it, all the while staring unwaveringly at the mother's face. (see psycho-sexual space) Contact with the need-gratifying percept is lost and recovered, lost and recovered, again and again. During the interval between loss and recovery of contact, the distance perception of the face remains unchanged. In the course of these repetitive experiences, visual perception comes to be relied on, for it is not lost; it proves to be the more constant and therefore the more rewarding of the two. ("The Cradle of Perception"The First Year of Life, p. 65)