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Perceiving Form

16 February, 2016 - 09:24

One of the important processes required in vision is the perception of form. German psychologists in the 1930s and 1940s, including Max Wertheimer (1880–1943), Kurt Koffka (1886–1941), and Wolfgang Köhler (1887–1967), argued that we create forms out of their component sensations based on the idea of the gestalt, a meaningfully organized whole. The idea of the gestalt is that the “whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Some examples of how gestalt principles lead us to see more than what is actually there are summarized in Table 4.1.

Table 4.1 Summary of Gestalt Principles of Form Perception





Figure and ground

We structure input such that we always see a figure (image) against a ground (background).

At right, you may see a vase or you may see two faces, but in either case, you will organize the image as a figure against a ground.



Stimuli that are similar to each other tend to be grouped together.

You are more likely to see three similar columns among the XYXcharacters at right than you are to see four rows.



We tend to group nearby figures together.

Do you see four or eight images at right? Principles of proximity suggest that you might see only four.



We tend to perceive stimuli in smooth, continuous ways rather than in more discontinuous ways.

At right, most people see a line of dots that moves from the lower left to the upper right, rather than a line that moves from the left and then suddenly turns down. The principle of continuity leads us to see most lines as following the smoothest possible path.



We tend to fill in gaps in an incomplete image to create a complete, whole object.

Closure leads us to see a single spherical object at right rather than a set of unrelated cones.