Laws of organization in perceptual forms

by Max Wertheimer
A source book of Gestalt psychology ()


I stand at the window and see a house, trees, sky. Theoretically I might say there were 327 brightnesses and nuances of colour. Do I have "327"? No. I have sky, house, and trees. It is impossible to achieve "327 " as such. And yet even though such droll calculation were possible and implied, say, for the house 120, the trees 90, the sky 117 -- I should at least have this arrangement and division of the total, and not, say, 127 and 100 and 100; or 150 and 177. The concrete division which I see is not determined by some arbitrary mode of organization lying solely within my own pleasure; instead I see the arrangement and division which is given there before me. And what a remarkable process it is when some other mode of apprehension does succeed! I gaze for a long time from my window, adopt after some effort the most unreal attitude possible. And I discover that part of a window sash and part of a bare branch together compose an N.

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