Laws of Organization

 Laws of Organization

A group called the Gestalt psychologists consisted of Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka. Together they proposed a number of laws of perceptual organization. The five laws of perceptual organization are as follows: the Law of Similarity, the Law of Pragnanz, the Law of Proximity, the Law of Continuity, and the Law of Closure (Cherry, Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization).

The Law of Similarity suggests that “similar things appear to be grouped together” (Goldstein, 2011, p.60). This grouping can occur with either visual or auditory stimulation. An example of the Law of Similarity is a pattern of dots. Some perceive the pattern of dots as horizontal rows, vertical rows, or even as both horizontal and vertical rows as seen in figure 1 below.

dots                paw Figure 1 (Unknown, Gestaltpsychology)   Figure 2 (Unknown, Gestaltpsychology)

The Law of Pragnanz or the Law of Simplicity suggests that “reality is reduced to the simplest form possible” (Cherry, Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization). An example of this law at work is the Olympic symbol. The Olympic symbol consists of a series of five circles and is perceived as a simple figure not a series of complicated shapes.

The Law of Proximity also known as the Law of Familiarity suggests that objects near each other appear to be grouped together. An example of this law can be seen above in figure 2. The dots are perceived to resemble a paw print because of the close proximity of the maroon dots.

The Law of Continuity suggests that lines are perceived to follow the smoothest path whether the result is curving, overlapping, or straight lines. A good example of the Law of Continuity is rope that is overlapping other parts of itself. Figure 2 below shows a rope overlapping itself.

rope       image

Figure 3 (Image from a Bing search)          Figure 4 (Image from a Bing search)

The final law is the Law of Closure. This law suggests that “objects grouped together are seen as a whole” (Cherry, Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization). Figure 4 above is an example of the Law of Closure. Our minds fill in the missing gaps to complete the shapes or images.

All of the Gestalt Laws try to explain how we perceive objects in our environment. ‘The whole is different from the sum of its parts’ is a Gestalt belief and is what led to the development of the principles explaining perceptual organization. These principles or phenomenon are considered to be mental shortcuts for solving problems or called heuristics.



Bing. Retrieved from

Bing. Retrieved from

Cherry, K. What are the Gestalt laws of perceptual organization? Retrieved from

GestaltPsychology. Retrieved from

Goldstein, E. (2011). Cognitive psychology (3rd edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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