figure and ground

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In the psychology of perception, the organization of a perceptual field into a figure (the subject) with a form or structure that stands out against and in front of a relatively undifferentiated ground (its background). In deliberately designed ambiguous images (such as the famous vase-and-faces image), what is figure (or signal) and what is ground (or noise) is capable of reversal, and what is initially perceived as figure depends on the observer's current interests and purposes and the immediate context within which the image is framed (see perceptual set). We owe the concept of ‘figure’ and ‘ground’ in perception to the gestalt psychologists: notably Wertheimer, Köhler, and Koffka. See also field dependence and independence; foregrounding; gestalt laws; salience.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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