Organization of Perceptions

The manner in which stimuli are arranged, that is, grouped, (in addition to their individual characteristics) also affects their perception.

Stimulus characteristics that affect organization. Important stimulus characteristics that affect the organization of stimuli and their perception include the following:

  • Closure. Closure is the completion of an incomplete stimulus. If someone yells at you, “Close the_____,” the word door isn't said, but you fill in the blank because of past experience and close the door.

  • Nearness. Stimuli that are near one another tend to be grouped together; stars near one another are sometimes seen as a pattern or constellation, which is not the case for stars that are far apart.

  • Similarity. Stimuli that are similar to one another are frequently grouped together; people wearing the same band uniforms are seen as similar compared to a group of marching people wearing everyday clothes.

  • Continuity. The tendency is to view a figure, pattern, or illustration that contains gaps as smooth and continuous rather than as discontinuous. The broken line down the middle of the highway is perceived as a continuous dotted line rather than a long row of blocks.

  • Contiguity. Contiguity, or nearness in time and space, also influences perception. If certain theme songs and visual stimuli are placed near the beginning or end of television programs, these stimuli are associated with the starting or stopping of the program.