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Common Fate

 

Explanations > Perception > Common Fate

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

When we see a number of objects moving together, then we assume they are connected and perceive the group as a single item.

Conversely, when objects are associated with one another, then what happens to one happens to all. When we create a figure by grouping individual shapes, then if one shape moves, then the others must move too.

Example

I see six dots turning together. I recognize a die.

In the diagram below, when the six dots slide along together, then they are perceived as a single item.

 

 

When I see a set of leaves on a branch, when the branch moves, I expect all the leaves to move as well.

Discussion

Things in the world move, which can help us identify individual objects. When items move together, we assume they are connected and so we use this to identify shapes.

This is one reason why animals will freeze when they detect predators. Their camouflage may work well when they are stationary, but when they start to move, they become visible.

In creating and recognizing the object, we mentally bind its parts together to create a single thing. We subsequently expect those parts to move together in a predictable way. If they do not move together as expected, we are force to revise our assumption of them being connected. For example two people, one standing behind the other who is bending over, may be seen as a single person. When one moves, there is a moment of confusion as we revise our perception.

So what?

When you want to make something recognizable, moving it will make it stand out more. You can also create surprise by making two things appear to be one thing and then moving one of them (this is sometimes used by advertisements).

See also

Proximity, Similarity

 

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