BAPS 2021 - Towards the most prägnant Gestalt: Contextual influences on simplification and complication tendencies


The Law of Prägnanz states that each organizational process will always be as ‘good’ as the prevailing conditions allow. Good organization can be achieved by removing unnecessary details or weakening certain features (i.e., simplification) or by making certain features of a Gestalt stand out (i.e., complication). We investigated whether the importance of a feature for discrimination within a specific context, influences whether simplification or complication of that feature occurs. We hypothesize that a feature which is important for discrimination will be complicated and a feature which is not important for discrimination will be simplified. In an online experiment, participants were asked to reconstruct one out of four figures using basic shapes, such that someone else would be able to recognize it among the other figures. For each figure, two dimensions were defined, one of which contained more variability across the four presented figures than the other. In the close context, target and distractors differed only quantitatively on those dimensions, whilst the figures were qualitatively the same. In the far context, target and distractors were qualitatively different. The data are currently being analyzed. We expect that in the close context, the most variable dimension will be complicated, whilst the other one will be simplified. In the far context, we expect simplification of both dimensions. These results could demonstrate the contextual dependence of perceptual and cognitive organizational tendencies like simplification and complication, more specifically the relevance or irrelevance of certain stimulus features for discrimination within a specific task context.

May 28, 2021