The laws of the Gestalt: this is how we organize what we see

The laws of the Gestalt: this is how we organize what we see

Gestalt laws or laws of Gestalt are rules that explain the origin of perceptions from stimuli.Thanks to them, we can understand why we perceive things the way we do it. The laws of the Gestalt revolve around the following idea: the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

These laws were established by the psychologists of the research line of the German School of Gestalt. These include Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka among others. These psychologists have demonstrated in a laboratory thatthe human brain organizes perceived elements in the form of configurations or totalities (gestalts).

This idea has replaced that according to which sensations are the result of the simple sum of individual perceptions. As we said,the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Simplify our world

The fact that we interpret forms in terms of significant units illustrates one of the main processes of perception in action.We try to simplify the complex stimuli presented to us.

If we did not reduce the complex to something we can understand, the world would be an excessive challenge. We could not act adequately.Ironically, psychologists have discovered that the process of simplifying the world requires a very great perceptual effort.

Give meaning to the world through perception

Let's look at the following images:

The majority of people would say that they see aincomplete triangle.

Here, they would report four tubes.

In this figure, they would seea square or a diamond between two columns.

But are these interpretations the only ones possible?One person would be quite right in saying that there are three angles in the first figure. Eight vertical lines in the second and a "w" above an "m" in the third.

The gestaltic conception of perception emphasizes how we interpret the individual elements of a scene as a complete and unified whole. This conception is based on the following assumption:the organized whole is a little different and bigger than the sum of its individual elements.

Laws of the organization of the Gestalt

Basic perceptual processes operate in accordance with a series of principles.These principles describe how we organize tips and pieces of information. We treat them as units of meaning.

These processes are called the laws of the Gestalt organization.They were set at the beginning of the 20th century by a group of German psychologists. They were interested in the study of patterns. These psychologists have been able to discover valid principles of importance for visual and auditory stimuli. We will now see what are these laws of the organization. Here they are :

Closing Law

This law states that we group things as closed or complete figures. We do not see them as open figures. Therefore,we tend to ignore discontinuitiesand to focus on the general form.

Law of proximity

We tend to group together items that are close to each other.Thus, we will see letters instead of seeing scattered points in the following image:

Law of similarity

We group elements that look similar.Here's why we see identical apple lines instead of seeing columns of different shapes.

Law of simplicity (or good figure)

Usually,the preponderant principle of Gestalt is that of simplicity.When we observe a boss, we perceive him in the most basic and direct way possible.

In the following image, we usually see the hands of the clock forming a "Y". This respects the principle of simplicity.The brain "sees" what is simplest to understand.

Since the image is surrounded by other letters, we think that these needles form one more letter in this set. These letters create the word TYME.The law of proximity could also be followed:the needles are in the middle of other letters.Just like the principle of similarity.There are indeed no color differences or curved lines. So we think it's an extra letter.

As we see, these organizational laws are very important for understanding our perception.We organize stimuli using different principles or laws. This is how we give them meaning.The explanation is simple: the brain needs to simplify what it perceives to make it more accessible.

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