The Law of Common Fate | Best Web Design

The Law of Common Fate


Grouping laws

The law of common fate is a Gestalt principle of perceptual organisation that identifies the human tendency to perceive visual elements moving in the same direction or in unison as grouped.



The law of common fate

Human perception is naturally inclined to form organised groups, patterns and objects from visual information. The form-generating bias that characterises human perception is demonstrated in a number of specific ways, and they are not specific to static visual information.

For example, visual elements moving in the same direction and at the same or similar speed are perceived as belonging to or forming a group.

Picture the movement of a flock of starlings swirling in the sky; the flock may be comprised of hundreds if not thousands of individual visual elements, but their speed and direction are matched, giving the appearance of one large, cohesive group or body.

Even when two flocks of birds intersect – passing one over the other in our view – we can distinguish them by the direction common to each flock.

The Importance of Common Fate

The Gestaltists Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Kohler described this particular perceptual bias in their list of grouping laws; referring to it as the ‘Principle of Common Fate’. The perceptual ability to trace objects according to their direction and speed is thought to represent an evolutionary need.

Our ancestors’ survival was dependent on their ability distinguish potential threats (i.e. predators) from the background scene. In the absence of other visual information, such as the colour or outline of a visual element, the capacity to detect motion was hugely important, and this is still an extremely important feature of human perception, especially in the age of the car.

July 30, 2019

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