Definition:  Perception is Perception is less than sensation because we  ignore much of what our senses detect. Perception is more than sensation partly because we organize and interpret what we sense
 H or I? I that could be an H M or W?
(It is supposed to be a W)
M that could be a W Why isn't this Under Armor logo an H? Under Armour logo is a U over an A but looks like an H

Gestalt Psychologists: the first to realize that perception involves organizing sensations.
To appreciate that the mind actively looks for patterns, watch this video).

If you want to have your mind blown by questioning whether there is a connection between perception and reality, you can watch this video (However, if you don't want to consider such a dark view, that's fine).

Definition of the German word Gestalt:  whole, figure, form, pattern, meaning, configuration.

Central principle/motto of Gestalt psychology: "The whole is different from the sum of the parts."

Following the links below can show you how 

Illusions demonstrate the Gestalt principle that "the whole is different from the sum of the parts."

  1. Fun examples of illusions
  2. The illusion that launched Gestalt Psychology: The phi-phenomenon
Time for a mini-quiz


One implication of the fact that what we see is different from what's there: We do not see objective reality. Instead, what we see is affected by our

perceptual hypotheses: guesses about how to perceive a stimulus. This guess may affect how we perceive (or misperceive) reality.

Examples of perceptual hypotheses affecting perception.

Implications of perceptual hypotheses for observation

1. All scientific observations are open to question because we may see what we expect to see rather than what's there. That is, we may be susceptible to
perceptual set: A tendency to see what we expect to see.

2. Asking people what they see may be more useful for finding out how they think (what perceptual hypotheses they have) than for finding out about the world. (This is the idea behind psychological projective tests like the Rorschach inkblot test and the TAT).

3. The disturbing lack of correspondence between confidence and accuracy of observations. See an example of the lack of correspondence between accuracy and confidence.

4. The value of perception checking and active listening

IV. The effect of experience on perception. See a fascinating example

A. Top down processing

B.  Helson's adaptation level

Louis C K gives some examples of the downside of Helson's adaptation level

V. We're all different artists, but we follow some of the same rules

Principle #1--We try to organize our perceptions:

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

  1. Closure our tendency to "close" or "fill-in" gaps to see a whole form.

  2. Proximity our tendency to group together things that are close together.
  3. Similarity people will tend to group similar items together
  4. Continuity our tendency to see lines as continuing, without breaks.

Principle #2--We tend to see the world as not changing.

1. Brightness/color constancy

2. Size constancy

3. Shape constancy

Principle #3--We see world in terms of figure and ground

Principle #4--Attention is selective - only 1 thing is figure at a time. Examples:

1. Reversible figures (These are also known as ambiguous figures. They are cool!)

2. Dichotic listening experiments

Principle #5--Stimuli with certain characteristics are more likely to be figure.

Taking advantage of this principle to get and keep attention

1. Repetition?

a. Why repetition is valued--the 17% phenomenon.

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

2. Intensity

3. Variation

4. Appeal to needs, interests of others

Principle #6--Figure affects perception of ground.

Principle #7-- Your current perceptions depend on (are interpreted relative to) your past perceptions: Helson's adaptation level.

At least 7 examples of this principle in action, including this video showing

the effect on Helson's adaptation  level on  happiness (you will probably be happier after watching this).


Take time out for a quick quiz.

To see some perception effects on your own, you can

By now, you should be able to:

  1. Explain how perception is both more and less than sensation.

  2. Explain what the Gestalt psychologists meant by the term "gestalt."

  3. Explain why the phi phenomenon was considered proof of the gestalt position.

  4. List four important implications of the fact that perceptual hypotheses can lead to perceptual set.

  5. List and give examples of four of the Gestalt Laws of Grouping.

  6. Explain how Helson's adaptation level can be used to increase your happiness. Listening to this story should give you a hint.

  7. Study this concept map and then do the related action maze.

  8. Do well on this practice quiz.
  9. Review this glossary of terms related to perception.