Gestalt principle

Gestalt principles are rules that describe how perceptions are structured and interpreted. These principles were postulated in the field of Gestalt psychology in the first half of the 20th century and are also known as Gestalt laws.

  • Example 1: Objects that are close to each other are perceived as belonging together by most observers.
  • Example 2: A sequence of individual frames, such as in a film, appears as a continuous flow.

The fundamental idea of Gestalt psychology is not limited to visual perceptions. Comparable principles can also be proposed in the realm of auditory perceptions.

Examples of visual Gestalt principles (loosely based on Wertheimer) include:

1. Principle of Proximity: The circles are closely positioned. Each pair of circles seems to belong together.

2. Principle of Similarity: Objects with similar characteristics appear to belong together.

3. Principle of Good Gestalt: Objects are perceived as representatives of ideal patterns. In the example, one sees a circle. However, it is actually an ellipse.

4. Principle of Common Region: Objects enclosed within a frame appear to belong together.

5. Principle of Good Continuation: Continuous curves intersecting are perceived as separate from each other.

6. Principle of Closure: Closed shapes are perceived as units. In the example, a large rectangle appears in the foreground and a small one in the background. It could actually be three rectangles.

7. Principle of Connectedness: Objects that are connected to each other appear to belong together.

Source: Drawings loosely based on WERTHEIMER.

These principles are regarded as hypotheses, often termed as gestalt laws. The term “principles of gestalt” seems more appropriate, given their hypothetical nature.


Wertheimer, Max (1923): „Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt“. In: Psychologische Forschung. Zeitschrift für Psychologie und ihre Grenzwissenschaften. Bd. 4. Koffka, K. [u.a.]. Berlin: Springer. S. 301-350

Drawings adapted from: Rikowski, S. (2015): Die Entwicklung computerbasierter Lehrmodelle zur Vermittlung technischer Bildungsinhalte. Göttingen: Cuvillier.