Many studies have investigated the perception of tactile pleasantness over a range of stroking velocities. On average, pleasantness is low at slow (e.g. 0.3 cm/s) and fast (e.g. 30 cm/s) stroking velocities, but is rated highest at velocities between 1 and 10 cm/s. On a group level, this results in an inverted-U shape pleasantness ratings curve, which is described statistically by a negative quadratic equation. We reanalyzed the data from five earlier studies to investigate whether the inverted-U shape pleasantness curve at the group level is also present at the level of the individual, – a precondition for using tactile pleasantness perception as a diagnostic marker. We pooled the data from five studies with a total of 127 participants. Each study included a ‘standard condition’ of stroking on the dorsal forearm over different velocities (0.3, 1, 3, 10, 30 cm/s) and participants rated the pleasantness. Factors other than stroking velocity were also varied in these studies. On the whole-group level and in each study, pleasantness ratings produced a significant negative quadratic pleasantness curve over the stroking velocities. In individual participants, ratings varied greatly and only 42% of the participants showed a significant negative quadratic curve. The steepness of the inverted-U correlated only moderately across other experimental conditions, showing that the experimental circumstances can influence pleasantness ratings. Our findings have important implications for future work, where differences in the tactile pleasantness curve should not be used to predict or diagnose issues at an individual level.
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