The Law of Synchrony | Best Web Design

The Law of Synchrony

Stephen Palmer added the law of synchrony to the existing Gestalt laws of grouping. This law is similar to common fate, but is distinguished on the basis that it identifies the grouping bias when visual elements appear at the same time yet they are not in motion.

When a number of events take place at the same time we are biased to perceive them as grouped or that they share the same meaning. These events do not necessarily have to be ‘active’; we also tend to perceive matching, static events as grouped. Stephen Palmer, a prominent psychologist who has carried out extensive work in the field of visual perception, observed and documented this perceptual bias.

Palmer (1992) referred to this particular group-forming bias as the ‘Law of Synchrony’, which was added to the established list of Gestalt principles of perceptual organisation provided in the late 19th and early 20th century.



the law of synchrony

The Importance of Synchrony

The law of synchrony shares much with the law of common fate, but Palmer’s grouping principle, as previously mentioned, applies to both active and static events.

Examples of synchrony biasing our perception can be seen in a number of situations, such as pupils standing up together in unison during assembly or a certain selection of bulbs lit on a control panel.

The law of synchrony allows us to instantly identify which visual elements belong to one group and distinguish them from all other unrelated elements. This can be important, especially in the modern world where computer programs use simultaneous events to distinguish items that require attention from those that can be ignored.

Therefore, the law of synchrony is perhaps of increasing importance in a world where we are ever more dependent on technologies to help us allocate our time and improve our productivity.

July 30, 2019

Design principles: Gestalt Psychology

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