Perception does much more to us than maintain size and shape constancy in depth. It also organizes objects in a visual array into coherent groups. One way to understand how this organization occurs is from the structuralist approach to psychology, which was based on the notion that simple sensations constitute the building blocks of perceived form.
The structuralist approach to form perception is decompositional and focused on breaking wholes into elementary components. This approach does little to address the ways in which these myriad sensations interact, emphasizing instead individual elements. The structuralist approach could not give any inkling as to how, or whether, the dynamic whole structure (for example a familiar tune) might differ from the sum of its parts (for example individual notes).
The Gestalt school of psychology is more functional and emerged largely as a reaction against the extreme approach of structuralism. The Gestaltists’ goal was to address directly the more global, holistic processes involved in perceiving structure in the environment.
The Gestalt approach to form perception is based in the notion that the whole differs from the sum of its individual parts. The Gestalt approach has proved to be useful particularly for understanding how we perceive groups of objects or even parts of objects to form integral wholes. According to the Gestalt law of Prägnanz, we tend to perceive any given visual array in a way that most simply organizes the disparate elements into a stable and coherent form, rather than as a jumble of unintelligible disorganized sensations. For example, we tent to perceive a focal figure and other sensations as forming a background for the figure on which we focus.
When you walk into a familiar room, you perceive that some things stand out (for example faces in photos) and that others fade into the background (for example undecorated walls and the floor).
A figure is any object perceived as being highlighted, almost always against or in contrast to some kind of receding, unhighlighted (back)ground.
Consider this image:
You can see either a white vase against a background or two silhouetted faces peering at each other against a white ground. Note, however, that it is virtually impossible to see both sets of objects simultaneously. Although you may switch rapidly back and forth between the vase and the faces, you cannot see them both at the same time.
One of the reasons suggested as to why each figure makes sense is that both figures conform to the Gestalt principle of symmetry, in which the features appear to have balanced proportions around a central point.
A few of the Gestalt principles in visual perception of forms are:
Proximity, similarity, continuity, closure and symmetry aid in our perceptions.
To understand how or why we perceive forms and patterns, we need to consider explanatory theories of perception. In the next article I’ll write about Bottom up approach (direct attention) followed by the top down approach (constructive perception). Both approaches are used in our neuromarketing methods to gain knowledge about the consumers’ unconscious behavior and how we can communicate without words… Also known as sublimal percpetion.
Subliminal perception is unconscious, sensory input that activates brain processes without being consciously registered. Such weak stimuli can create priming. Priming briefly prepares the brain so that it can quickly respond to additional events related to the stimulus in the near future. The term subliminal perception referred to the phenomenon that an individual’s thoughts, behaviors or emotions are influenced by stimuli that are not perceived on a conscious level. The unconscious registration of stimuli is called subliminal perception. Below is a well spread short clip showing how people are affected without knowing it.. Watch it, you want be sorry.
If you have missed any of my previous, hopefully educational, articles about perception, you can click on the links to read “Interpret The Image” and “Context Is King”. Next time I’ll be more concrete and talk about percpetion, attention and how you should think when creating graphic material such as a package design or a print ad..