Adaptation – Prolonged stimulation renders the sensory organs insensitive to further stimulation; the perceptive function is thus curtailed. For example: a smell or odor is no longer perceived after 30 seconds.
Attention – A selective process in which an individual, either interactionally or subconsciously, perceives a limited number of stimuli and/or has a reaction to these to the exclusion of other stimuli. Attention is dependent upon a great many psychological factors, such as color and size, and on personality factors, such as interest, and environmental factors, such as sound (coincidental or otherwise), other people, etc. See also: Stimulus
Closure – A person observing a number of interrupted lines may, nevertheless, perceive these as meaningful (having significance). For example: an interrupted line arranged in the form of a circle will be perceived as a circle. See also: Gestalt psychology/Closure test/Closure procedure
Differential Threshold – term that originates in Psychophysics. The minimal difference between two stimuli that can just barely but nonetheless be perceived. Smaller differences can no longer be perceived, that is to say: the similarity of these stimuli is too great. See also: Psychophysics/Stimulus threshold
Field Properties – The characteristics of a whole that influence perception of its parts. For example: a woman wearing an apron in the house is immediately identified as a housewife, though in fact she might be an aunt, a nurse or neighbor. See also: Gestalt/Perception
Figure-ground Perception – A phenomenon of perception. The principle that perception is formed fundamentally according to two patterns:
- A clear foreground form (the figure) has an adequate outline and leaves an impression of solidity and three dimensionality.
- A background which is indistinct. For example: a photograph. The man in the foreground (=figure) is clear and sharply outlined. The house, in front of which he stands (=ground) is indistinct, unclear and vague.
Gestalt – Literally: (German) form, configuration, figure. The Gestalt is a total (a structure) that is more than the sum of its parts. The Gestalt is an original key concept of Gestalt. A cup and a saucer together also from form a Gestalt. A house in a street forms a Gestalt (all parts). All the houses in the street form a Gestalt. See also: Gestalt Psychology/ Gestalt laws/Perception
Gestalt Laws – Syn: Gestalt Principles Seven formulated principles generally applicable to perception. These laws were developed by the school of Gestalt psychology and are as follows:
- Law of proximity. The closer two stimuli are (in space or time), the greater the tendency to perceive them as a single entity. Example: When two people are standing close together, one perceives them as a whole, a unit (a courting couple). Two trees standing close together “belong together.” A group of trees becomes a “grove.” A table and chair standing close together form a unit.
- Law of similarity. There is a tendency to perceive two identical stimuli or a collection of stimuli as belonging together. For example: Two uniformed policemen standing on a crowded railway platform belong together, even though they may be standing yards apart. Two girlfriends wanting to show that they belong together sometimes dress the same. Twins are also dressed similarly.
The packaging for products of a single type often look very much a like (coffee, tea cigarettes).
- Law of contiguity. When two objects carry out identical movements there is a tendency to perceive them as belonging together. When two people walk one behind the other, we think that they belong together. Three horsemen riding through the woods following the same trail are perceived as a unit, though in fact they may have nothing to do with one another.
- Law of transportation. When we are accustomed to perceiving a specific stimulus in a specific manner, we will continue to do so next time. If we habitually regard a specific traffic sign as a signal to stop, we will (hopefully) continue to interpret it as such.
- Law of figure completion. The simplest and clearest progress of a line will be preferred to another every time. A three quarter figure of a circle formed by dots will be perfected to a complete circle. A row of houses, one of which is missing a chimney, is perceived as an uninterrupted line.
- Law of Closure. Stimuli and stimulus patterns are conceived as a unit if this permits a simpler, closed structure to come into being. We have tendency to simplify our perception: trees becomes a forest, spoons and forks become a place setting. If a number of dots indistinctly form a circle, we tend to perceive this collection of dots as a circle.
- Law of contrast. When a specific structure has become meaningful as a result of an earlier experience, there will be a tendency to perceive this structure in the same way again. If, in our experience, we have learned to perceive a red sphere on a white field as the national flag of Japan, then even a red ball printed on a white towel will make us think about that flag.
See also: Gestalt/Perception
Gestalt Psychology – A German-American school of psychology that deals primarily with experimental research on perception. Leading figures in its development were Wertheimer, Kohler and Kofka. See also: Gestalt/Gestalt laws/Perception
Insight – Syn: Aha-erlebnis A phenomenon in which suddenly, without prior indication, the solution of a problem is perceived.
Interpersonal Perception – The perception of others, the perception of one another. This perception involves not only the seeing of the other, but also the interpretation of the other’s activities. Someone is walking down the street, and we stop him; however, we conclude that he is doing more than that: he is shopping, buying groceries. See also: Perception