Humans need to accurately process the contact forces that arise as they perform everyday haptic interactions, but the mechanisms by which the forces on the skin are represented and integrated remain little understood. In this study, we used a force-controlled robotic platform and simultaneous ultrasonic modulation of the finger-surface friction to briefly and independently manipulate the normal and tangential forces during passive haptic stimulation by a flat surface. When participants were asked whether the contact pressure on their finger had briefly increased or decreased, they could not distinguish the normal force from the tangential force. Instead, they integrated the normal and tangential components of the force vector into a multidimensional computation of the contact force. We additionally investigated whether participants relied on three common contact-force metrics. Interestingly, the change in the amplitude of the force vector predicted participants’ responses better than the change of the coefficient of dynamic friction and the change of the angle of the contact force vector. Thus, intensive cues related to the amplitude of the applied force may be meaningful for the sensing of contact pressure during haptic stimulation by a moving surface.