The Law of Continuity | Best Web Design

The Law of Continuity

The law of continuity is a Gestalt principle of perceptual organisation which identifies the human ability to determine object constancy when the whole object is not completely visible. In addition, this law identifies how we are biased to perceive interlinking or bisecting visual elements as continuous forms in a particular direction.

The law of continuity

When one object passes over or behind another we still see two distinct forms following a particular path. For instance, when we look at the figure above, we see two distinct lines going from A to D and C to B.

There are alternative interpretations, such as A to C, C to D, and A to B, but we are biased to follow the lines according to expectation, which is based on knowledge acquired from the real-world where there is no break in nature and we learn, even when partially obscured or hidden, objects pass through all intermediate states.

This perceptual phenomenon forms the basis of the Gestalt ‘Law of Continuity’; a descriptive principle of perceptual organisation that helps us appreciate how our experience of the world is heavily influenced by internal processes, and not just the information received from the world itself.

Considering Continuity

Imagine a person standing behind a lamp post with one arm held out one side and one leg held aloft the other. We can appreciate that the arm and leg belong to the same body by the law of continuity. However, there are also times where this strong perceptual bias can draw us to the wrong conclusion.

Think of a wide tree (maybe an oak), with the same arm-leg arrangement as the lamp post example. We would likely perceive this scene as one person hiding behind a tree, but in actual fact the arm and leg are from two different people. In spite of the width of the tree, the law of continuity leads us to piece together the two sides, creating our perception of one person behind the tree.

This represents an example of an optical illusion, which is essentially our perceptual system misinterpreting sensory information according to biases that are either inherent in human perception (i.e. nature) or acquired through experience (i.e. nurture).

July 30, 2019

Design principles: Gestalt Psychology

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