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Gestalt Principles of Perception: Similiarity

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Copyright © 1999 by Bonnie Skaalid

ClosureClosure, Area & Symmetry

Gestalt Principle: Closure [1]

The principle of closure applies when we tend to see complete figures even when part of the information is missing. We see three black circles covered by a white triangle, even through it could just as easily be three incomplete circles joined together. Our minds react to patterns that are familiar, even though we often receive incomplete information. It is speculated this is a survival instinct, allowing us to complete the form of a predator even with incomplete information.

Dot Circle


Even though the circle to the left is not joined together,
we still perceive a circle due to the principle of closure.



Area 1Gestalt Principle: Area [

The principle of area states that the smaller of two overlapping figures is perceived as figure while the larger is regarded as ground. We perceive the smaller square to be a shape on top of the other figure, as opposed to a hole in the larger shape. We can reverse this perception by using shading to get our message across, as seen below.

Area 2



On a white background, this looks like a box with a hole in it.



SymmetryGestalt Principle: Symmetry [

The principle of symmetry describes the instance where the whole of a figure is perceived rather than the individual parts which make up the figure. What do you see to the right? Two overlapping diamonds, or three objects, a small diamond and two irregular objects above and below it? If you are perceiving according to the principle of symmetry, you will probably see two diamonds overlapping.





[1] All figures adapted from examples in: Mullet, K. & Sano, D. (1995). Designing visual interfaces: Communication oriented techniques. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.  

Theory:[Classic Graphic Design Theory] [Gestalt Theory of Perception] [Human Computer Interface Design]

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