This image, “Visual Gestalt”, is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Jennifer Turner.

Prägnanz in visual perception

Things look as they do not only because of the visual input an individual receives, but also because of how the viewer processes this input in a certain context. Prägnanz is about how viewers organize the inputs and about why that is the case. Traditionally, the law of Prägnanz states that psychological organization will always be as “good” as the prevailing conditions allow (Koffka, 1935, p. 110).

In this project, we develop a more fine-grained understanding of Prägnanz (i.e., “goodness” of organization) and its added value for current theory and research on human visual perception, both by studying the existing literature and conducting new empirical research. The proposed empirical studies concern the relation of Prägnanz with: (a) robustness and sensitivity to change; (b) hysteresis and adaptation; (c) order and complexity; and (d) simplification and complication. These concepts are antagonistic to some extent, but they are also complementing each other to optimize a balance. What entails the optimal combination of both will be flexibly adjusted to the individual, input, and context.

The aspired outcome of this project is a further specification of the definition of “goodness” or Prägnanz, the conditions to which it is susceptible, its role in perceptual and higher-order processes (including discrimination, categorization, and aesthetic appreciation), and the ways in which Prägnanz can foster current perception science.