Chapter 2 – Perception, Written Response pertaining to The Gestalt Principles of Perception
Gestalt Psychology was a strong force in Psychology, especially in Europe. However, it was less of a force in the U.S., and as textbooks can often be ethnocentric, our textbook does not go into enough detail regarding the Gestalt Psychology and their contributions to the field to Cognition, specifically in regard to Perception.
Simply put, Gestalt Psychology proposed that the “whole is different than the sum of its parts” (Anderson, 2020). The Gestalt Psychologists greatly advanced our understanding regarding how the brain organizes the visual stimuli that trigger the receptors on our retinas (aka, sensation) in a way that that we can perceive actual objects in our external world.
The laws (aka, principles) that Gestalt Psychology proposed greatly help us understand how we can perceive objects/units (e.g., people, places, things, etc.). These “laws” are now typically referred to as the Gestalt Principles of Organization. Our brain uses these principles to make processing of visual input more efficient; in essence they are heurists (aka, mental shortcuts).
We use these principles to principles in our everyday life, although we are not typically aware of doing so.
I am walking down the hall and see two individuals who are walking towards me, coming from the opposite direction (note: I do not see thousands of bits and pieces of separate details. I see each individual as being one whole person (Pragnanz/Simplicity). They are both wearing shorts and hoodies and they both have their hair up in ponytails (Similarity). I assume that they are both students because of this. They are walking near each other (Proximity). I assume that they are friends because of this. Parts of their bodies are covered up by their clothes, but I still perceive that they have full bodies. I do not think that their hands are separate from their bodies, even though I cannot see where their hands are connected to their arms. My mind fills in the missing information (Closure). They are walking on the left side of the hall. I assume that they will continue walking on that side (Good Continuation) and not suddenly step to the right of the hall where I am walking. When I am focusing my attention on these two individuals, I perceive them as being the Figure(s) and the other visual stimuli (i.e., the hall, the walls, etc.) as being the Ground (aka, background). If I suddenly, see a colleague who has entered the hallway, behind them, and I focus my attention on my colleague, my colleague becomes the Figure and the two individuals become part of the Ground.
Artists and graphic designers use Gestalt Principles regularly. For this Written Response you will:
- Find an image that uses these Principles. To make this more interesting pick an image that really amazes you. (hint: good search phrases – Psychological Optical Illusions, Optical Illusions- Hidden Pictures, Gestalt in Art or Graphics, etc.). I have added some images below my (partial) example of this assignment, to assist you with ideas of potential images.
- Paste the image to your word document.
- Explain why you chose this image.
- Explain examples, for each of these 6 Gestalt Principles of Organization, that are in the image.
My PARTIAL example of this Written Response Assignment:
Please note: I do want to provide an entire example the entire example as it would detract from you using your cognitive processes.
I chose this image because it astounded me that so many images could be perceived in it. It amazes me what I “see” depends on my perception (e.g., two archways or two outlines of the heads, two sets of facial features or two men playing guitar, an earring or a bottle of wine, etc.). In addition, I found the image to be especially joyful because it involves either an older couple lovingly gazing at each other or two men and a female onlooker having a relaxing time with music. I also appreciate….
Figure-Ground – Figure-Ground is represented in many ways in this image. If I focus my attention on the central golden shape, then that becomes the figure and I perceive a vase/goblet and the other visual information becomes the ground. If I focus on the two faces, then they become the figure and the rest of the image is the ground. If I focus on the two men and the woman in the distant left, then…
Pragnanz/Simplicity/Good Form – I perceive what is in the image as whole forms. For example, when looking at the faces, I perceive the details of the faces, but I do not see these details as being meaningless bits of information. Instead, I receive these bits of information as whole faces. Similarly, when looking at the two men…
Good Continuation –
Hints for the rest of the principles:
We organize/group objects or parts of objects together if they are similar in color, size, shape, et. (Similarity).
We organize/group objects or parts of objects together if they are near to each other (Proximity)
Our minds fill in the gaps when information is missing from what we “see” (Closure).
We perceive lines and movement as continuing in straight or curved lines (Good Continuation).