mentioned in the introduction, perception refers to interpretation of what
we take in through our senses. The way we perceive our environment is
what makes us different from other animals and different from each other.
In this section, we will discuss the various theories on how our sensation
are organized and interpreted, and therefore, how we make sense of what we
see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
Principles of Grouping
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.
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. 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.
if every time an object changed we had to completely reprocess it. The
next time you walk toward a building, you would have to re-evaluate the size
of the building with each step, because we all know as we get closer,
everything gets bigger. The building which once stood only several
inches is now somehow more than 50 feet tall.
this doesn't happen. Due to our ability to maintain constancy in our
perceptions, we see that building as the same height no matter what distance
it is. Perceptual constancy refers
to our ability to see things differently without having to reinterpret the
object's properties. There are typically three constancies discussed,
including size, shape, brightness.
constancy refers to our ability to see objects as maintaining the
same size even when our distance from them makes things appear larger or
smaller. This holds true for all of our senses. As we walk away
from our radio, the song appears to get softer. We understand, and
perceive it as being just as loud as before. The difference being our
distance from what we are sensing.
has seen a plate shaped in the form of a circle. When we see that same
plate from an angle, however, it looks more like an ellipse. Shape constancy allows us to perceive that
plate as still being a circle even though the angle from which we view it
appears to distort the shape.
constancy refers to our ability to recognize that color remains
the same regardless of how it looks under different levels of light.
That deep blue shirt you wore to the beach suddenly looks black when you
walk indoors. Without color constancy, we would be constantly
re-interpreting color and would be amazed at the miraculous conversion our
determine distance using two different cues: monocular and binocular. Monocular
cues are those cues which can be
seen using only one eye. They include size; texture, overlap, shading,
height, and clarity.
refers to the fact that larger images are perceived as closer to us,
especially if the two images are of the same object. The texture
of objects tend to become smoother as the object gets farther away,
suggesting that more detailed textured objects are closer. Due to overlap,
those objects covering part of another object is perceived as closer.
The shading or shadows of objects can
give a clue to their distance, allowing closer objects to cast longer
shadows which will overlap objects which are farther away. Objects
which are closer to the bottom of our visual field are seen as closer to us
due to our perception of the horizon, where higher (height)
means farther away. Similar to texture, objects tend to get blurry as
they get farther away, therefore, clearer or more crisp images tend to be
perceived as closer (clarity).
cues refer to those depth cues in which both eyes are needed to
perceive. There are two important binocular cues; convergence and
retinal disparity. Convergence
refers to the fact that the closer an object, the more inward our eyes need
to turn in order to focus. The farther our eyes converge, the closer
an object appears to be. Since our eyes see two images which are then
sent to our brains for interpretation, the distance between these two
images, or their retinal disparity,
provides another cue regarding the distance of the object.
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