Notebook, 1993-


Active Nature of
Organizing Perceptions

Meaningful Pattern . . . . Learning and past experience greatly affect perceptual organization. One can have an immediate recognition of letters and not be able to read handwriting. Camouflage patterns break up figure-ground organization. If you had not seen a similar camouflaged animal in a scene, for example, would you recognize it? In a way we are all detectives, seeking patterns in what we see. In this sense a meaningful pattern represents a perceptual hypothesis, or guess held until the evidence contradicts it. The active nature of organizing perceptions is perhaps most apparent for ambiguous stimuli (patterns allowing more than one interpretation). If you look at a cloud, you may discover dozens of ways to organize its contours into fanciful shapes and scenes. Even clearly defined stimuli may permit more than one interpretation. In some instances, a stimulus may offer such conflicting information that perceptual organization becomes impossible. A tendency to make a three-dimensional object out of a drawing is frustrated by the "three-pronged widget", an impossible figure.

[Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.]



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