Grouping (Gestalt)

Gestalt Principles of Grouping

The German word “Gestalt” roughly translates to “whole” or “form,” and the Gestalt psychologist’s sincerely believed that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  In order to interpret what we receive through our senses, they theorized that we attempt to organize this information into certain groups.  This allows us to interpret the information completely without unneeded repetition.  

For example, when you see one dot, you perceive it as such, but when you see five dots together, you group them together by saying a “row of dots.”  Without this tendency to group our perceptions, that same row would be seen as “dot, dot, dot, dot, dot,” taking both longer to process and reducing our perceptive ability.  The Gestalt principles of grouping include four types: similarity, proximity, continuity, and closure.

Similarity refers to our tendency to group things together based upon how similar to each other they are.  In the first figure above, we tend to see two rows of red dots and two rows of black dots.  The dots are grouped according to similar color.

In the next figure, we tend to perceive three columns of two lines each rather than six different lines.  The lines are grouped together because of how close they are to each other, or their proximity to one another.  Continuity refers to our tendency to see patterns and therefore perceive things as belonging together if they form some type of continuous pattern.  In the third figure, although merely a series of dots, it begins to look like an “X” as we perceive the upper left side as continuing all the way to the lower right and the lower left all the way to the upper right.  

Closure finally, in the fourth figure, we demonstrate closure, or our tendency to complete familiar objects that have gaps in them.  Even at first glance, we perceive a circle and a square.

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