Max Wertheimer: ‘Laws of Organization in Perceptual Form’ (Part 1)

Max Wertheimer, recognized as the founding Gestalt psychologist, published one of his most prominent journals in 1923 — ‘Laws of Organization in Perceptual Form’. He stresses on the importance of perceiving an organization (or its behaviors) as a whole instead of focusing separated dispersed objects. In this text, Wertheimer introduces few principles to explain how to perceive and interpret grouping objects. In order to understand his theory easier, I have analyzed some of his main points in conjunction with the diagrams as shown below:

The Factor of Proximity
The elements placed in the proximal distance are perceived as grouped organization.

Fig. 1. The factor of proximity, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 1 shows that the circles are perceived into 4 groups in horizontal alignments.

Fig. 2. The factor of proximity, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 2 shows that the circles are perceived into 5 groups in vertical alignments.

Fig. 3. The factor of proximity, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 3 shows that the circles are perceived into 5 groups in a graduation scaling. However, Wertheimer argues that it would be more difficult to group the elements when the number of element is reduced. He stated “such incorrect reasoning would be based upon the proposition ‘The more dots, the more difficult it will be to unite them into groups.'”

The Factor of Similarity
The elements appears in homogeneous similarity are perceived as a grouped organization.

Fig. 4. The factor of similarity, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 4 shows that the circles and squares are perceived into 2 groups homogeneously.

Fig. 5. The factor of similarity, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

When law of proximity and law of similarity are employed in the same constellation. “They may be made to cooperate; or, they can be set in opposition-as.” Wertheimer (1923, p. 301) explains, “By appropriate variations, either factor may be weakened or strengthened.” Fig. 5  shows the factor of similarity is victorious despite the placement in proximity.

Fig. 6. The factor of similarity and factor of proximity, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 6 shows proximity overcomes the similarity when increase of interval occurs.

Fig. 7. The factor of similarity and factor of proximity, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 7 shows when functioning towards the same end, both similarity and proximity enhance their attributes vertically.

The Factor of Common Fate
When a ‘natural grouping’ of elements are shifted, it is considered ‘pro-structural’. The shift mentioned is ‘smoother’ than ‘contra-structural’ kind since the ‘natural grouping’ elements share their common fate.

Fig. 8. The factor of common fate, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 8 shows when shifting a ‘natural grouping’ object upward, the shifted elements are perceived as a new group. Therefore, the elements with same orientation are perceived as same group.

Fig. 9. The factor of common fate, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 9 shows a group of elements display in horizontal orientation perceptually.

Fig. 10. The factor of common fate, drawn on 17 Oct 2013

Fig. 10 shows two groups of elements display in different directions, one group in horizontal orientation while another one is perceived at a slant degree.

Please find the part 2 of my study on Wertheimer’s ‘Laws Of Organization In Perceptual Form’ at here.

References:
Wertheimer, Max (1923) ‘Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms’, Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt 2 (4), 301-350,http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Wertheimer/Forms/forms.htm (visited 15/10/13)

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