Gestalt Principles of Perception

Critical Thinking Question

The central tenet of Gestalt psychology is that the whole is different from the sum of its parts. What does this mean in the context of perception?


This means that perception cannot be understood completely simply by combining the parts. Rather, the relationship that exists among those parts (which would be established according to the principles described in this chapter) is important in organizing and interpreting sensory information into a perceptual set.

Take a look at the following figure. How might you influence whether people see a duck or a rabbit?

A drawing appears to be a duck when viewed horizontally and a rabbit when viewed vertically.


Playing on their expectations could be used to influence what they were most likely to see. For instance, telling a story about Peter Rabbit and then presenting this image would bias perception along rabbit lines.