# PERCEPTION: THE BUSINESS OF CREATING MEANING

We are all different artists, each painting our own view of reality. However, all of us had one teacher (Mother Nature) in common, and so we usually follow her six rules:

Rule #1--We try to organize (group) things:

The Gestalt Laws of Grouping (link to a video that summarizes the main laws)

Law Definition Example
Closure
our tendency to "close" or "fill-in" gaps to see a whole form. Below, you see a square rather than four separate lines. (Singers take advantage of this by often leaving out those hard to sing consonants. For example, in this hit 1970's song "Hey, Mr. Postman", the great Karen Carpenter does not sing the "r" in the words "letter" and "better."
Proximity
our tendency to group together things that are close together. Below, you see two groups of four crosses rather than four groups of two crosses.

Similarity
our tendency to group similar items together. Below, you group the same colored crosses together, so you see a blue column and a red column rather than seeing 4 rows.

Continuity
our tendency to see lines as continuing, without breaks. Below, you see one (continuous) line going through the square, rather than seeing two unconnected lines on each side of the square.

Rule #2--We tend to see the world as not changing (often sensations change, but perceptions don't).
1. Brightness/color constancy: Objects seem the same color and brightness regardless of whether it is a bright or cloudy day.

2. Size constancy: Your friends don't look bigger as they come closer to you--even though their images on your eyes do get bigger.

3. Shape constancy: Even though the image on your eye changes as you look at a door from different angles, you still see the door's shape as rectangular.

Rule #3--We divide the world into two things: figure (foreground, what we focus on) and ground(background).

Rule #4--Attention is selective--only 1 thing is figure (focus) at a time (so multi-tasking doesn't work). Examples:

• Reversible figures (also called ambiguous images). You can see two different things in these pictures, but you can only see one thing at a time.

• Dichotic listening experiments In a typical study, people are given headphones and are told to listen to what is said in one ear. Participants often have no memory of what was said in the other ear. They often fail to notice that the message in the other ear was different.
• Inattentional blindness (links to videos if you didn't see them earlier)

Rule #5--Stimuli that are intense and that change are more likely to be figure.

Taking advantage of this rule to get and keep attention

1. Repetition?

a. Why repetition is valued--some studies suggest that students are paying attention to a lecture about 17% of the time, so key information should be repeated.

b. Why simply repeating isn't good enough: habituation.

2. Intensity (loud and bright is more noticeable)

3. Variation (change catches attention and prevents habituation. )

Rule #6--Ground (the background) affects perception of figure (e.g., this is not very visible against a yellow background but this is visible against a darker background).

Take time out for a quick quiz.