The Spectacle of Perception
Perception is a very common word that almost everyone has come across. It means how we infer things, how our brain collocates information which are sensory in nature. This article includes an easier explanation of Gestalt Psychology, ‘Laws of Perceptual Organization.’
Perception is a very composite procedure in which our nervous system plays a huge role. The process seems to be a very simple one as an individual’s response to a stimulus takes place in the blink of an eye, but is actually a very complicated process that takes place inside our brain. The perceptual process can be divided into three phases:
Phase 1: Receiving the information i.e., stimuli
Phase 2: Selecting the information and then organizing them for interpretation
Phase 3: Behavioural action i.e., response
Every reaction that a living organism gives is because of some stimuli they receive. They observe the objects and the actions around them, receive the information, try to comprehend them, and respond to them accordingly. Be it a dog responding to a strange person entering the premises, or a student who is happy with the examination result, the process is the same but how we perceive the happenings around us varies. Gestalt Psychology talks widely about perception. Gestalt is a German term that means shape. Let us see some of the concepts under Gestalt Psychology:
Figure-Ground Perception —
The figure-ground perception talks about how our brain interprets an object or an image as the main object and the rest of the image as its background which is referred to as the ground. This concept is on a general basis illustrated with the Rubin vase which is termed as ‘faces or vases’. The Gestalt theory says that people identify the varied constituents and combine them to understand them as one whole thing.
People identify the main part of the image of the object to be more clear and the rest of the background as blurred. Most of us also give our attention to the larger part (in size) of an image or an object as that is clearer and easy to see rather than the smaller ones, so in this case, the smaller objects become the ground. Objects or images that have a visual which are separated from other visuals might grab our attention and become the main object and the rest might become the ground. The following image includes examples of figure-ground.
Law of Similarity —
Aristotle threw some light on this concept. He explained the law of similarity as people visualizing two similar things that are generally associated with one main event of talk, visualization, or imagination of one object might activate the thought of the other object as well. For example, if one of your friends is talking about fast food Burger, then you tend to imagine the crisp meat or fried potato of the burger, and gradually your mind leads you to French fries (as people generally eat burger and fries together). Or let's take another example when you think of coffee your mind tends to think of tea as well automatically.
This concept under Gestalt Psychology says that people put those things together which they find to be similar to each other. The objects or images are categorized in one group which looks similar to the eyes of people.
The law of similarity states that objects or images that look similar make our brain group them together. The more similar objects are to each other, the more we explain it to belonging to the same group. Here, how the object looks is what derives the similarity and not what the object is. In the following image, we automatically identify light blue and dark blue circles together in rows and columns.
Law of Proximity —
This concept explains that objects or images that are nearby each other seem more similar than those which are quite away from each other. Proximity is quite strong as it can overturn even different color combinations. In Gestalt Psychology, Max Wertheimer states that there is a series of events that showcase illusionary motions. The law of proximity makes us combine the text and infer it as one whole image/text/object.
The most easily comprehendible example for the law of proximity can be movies, they are moving still images that generate visual experiences. There are also other examples we see every day in logos of various companies. This concept makes our eyes use the blank space between the objects in the image so that our brain can perceive and build a relation amongst the varied components of the image. In the following image (logo of Hindustan Unilever Ltd.) the different designs take a shape that makes our brain interpret as the alphabet ‘U’.
Law of Simplicity —
The law of simplicity states that when we observe objects or images our brain perceives them in the simplest form possible so that we can understand them better. The law of simplicity is called the Law of Pragnanz which means good figure in German. Through this concept, we can infer that we perceive the things, events, and happenings around us in their simplest form so that it becomes easier for us the interpret what they actually are. In the following image rather than understanding it as a weird combination of shapes, we comprehend them like a triangle, circle, and square after looking at the image on the right side.
Law of Continuity —
The law of continuity states that when we see constituents arranged in a straight or curving path, our brain perceives it as a smooth line or curve. Instead of seeing them as separate lines or separate angles, we perceive them following one smooth path. If we see the following image we can comprehend the birds in a smooth ‘V’ shape and not as two different lines.
Law of Closure —
The law of closure states that our brain generally groups together the elements which are incomplete but nearby each other. When we observe images or objects that are complicated, our brain tries to identify it as one recognizable object or image. Our brain tries to fill in the gaps to infer the incomplete picture as one. If we observe the following images, they are complicated ones, but our brain completes the empty area and we see them as one complete picture, like the airplane, the football.
Gestalt Psychology helps us understand the concept of perception in a simpler way. The above laws are generally referred to as ‘Laws of Perceptual Organization.’ These principles are shortcuts for our brain to comprehend images and objects around us in an easy manner. Perception adds meaning to the trivial as well as significant events taking place around us, it is important as our behavior depends on how we perceive things.