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The Six Laws of Gestalt Psychology

Founded by psychologist Max Wertheimer during the early 20th century, Gestalt psychology is an important school of thought that has contributed to our understanding of perception, especially in how we perceive objects.

According to Verywell Mind, Gestalt psychology “emphasizes that the whole of anything is greater than its parts.”

For example, imagine a pile of Legos. The bricks are different colors. Your mind begins to pick out the yellow bricks from the red bricks.You begin to separate the colors into their own groups until there are multiple piles of Legos sitting in front of you.

Each group of colors contributes to the whole—they are all still Legos, just separated.

This brings into conversation the six Gestalt laws:

  • law of similarity
  • law of prägnanz
  • law of closure
  • law of proximity
  • law of common region
  • law of continuity

1. Law of Similarity

In the Lego scenario described above, we see the law of similarity.

When we are faced with a set of objects that have similar characteristics, we tend to group them together in our minds.

Another example would be if we were to group the Legos by their size.

2. Law of Prägnanz

The most popular example of the law of prägnanz is seen in the Olympics symbol of five interconnected rings.

According to this law, when we see what could be interpreted as a whole object with different parts (in this example, a curling design with five different colors), our brains prefer to see the whole image through its parts.

3. Law of Closure

The law of closure is perhaps seen most often in brand logos, but many of us also encountered it at a young age while in school.

When you were learning the alphabet, do you remember tracing letters on worksheets? For example, you saw a row of letter As that was made up of dashes that you had to connect?

You understood what the letter was supposed to be, even without the lines connected. That was the law of closure.

4. Law of Proximity

The law of proximity refers to how our brains categorize objects as being related when they are closer together.

For example, we wouldn’t be able to read without the law of proximity. When letters are placed together in a certain order, it tells the brain to read that group of letters as a word.

Your brain interprets each word in this article as being its own ‘group’ simply because I’ve put space between them.

5. Law of Common Region

The law of common region is when an object, or group of objects, is distinguished by a kind of boundary.

For instance, say that you’re studying for an exam. As you read through your textbook, you use a yellow highlighter to indicate key information you need to remember for a test. Highlighting those lines makes them stand out from the rest of the words on the page.

With the yellow background, your brain understands that the information you highlighted is a more important group of information to remember than the un-highlighted portions of the text.

6. Law of Continuity

The law of continuity encourages an individual’s eye to move from one point to another.

It can be found in the Amazon logo, which contains an orange arrow under the word ‘Amazon’ that moves from the first letter ‘a’ to the letter ‘z’. This design is a play on the idea that the company has everything from A to Z.

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