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Mind Separates Inside from Outside


Explanations > Perception > Visual Perception > Mind Separates Inside from Outside

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



When we have identified a visual object, complete with a containing outline, the mind puts great importance on what is inside and what is outside this. Inside the boundary, anything is considered a part of the object and is expected to fit into the mental model we hold of the object. Outside the boundary, anything we identify is considered to be something else, and hence to be interpreted separately. Anything inside the object boundary which does not fit with the mental model may be rejected as something on the object and not a part of the object itself.


I see a bird. There is a white spot on it. I consult my mental model of the species to determine whether a white spot is to be expected. It is not, so I conclude that the spot is unusual for the bird or else something in front of the bird.


An important aspect of inside and outside is identity. Inside an object's boundary, everything is a part of the object. Outside the boundary, anything is something else. This gives far greater scope for external variation and greater potential confusion, discomfort and cognitive effort for internal variation.

When objects overlap, the mind may separate outlines to realize that underneath objects are obscured and that other objects which occupy the rear object's 'space' are not a part of the underlying object. Having said this, if the top object is not identified as being separate, the overlap can be confusing until this difference is realized and the objects mentally separated.

When there is variation of items within an object, such as changes in the clothes that a person is wearing, some further thought may be triggered, depending on whether this difference fits within the mental model for the person.

So what?

If you want objects to be clearly and easily identified, first separate them from other objects, then ensure all parts of the object are as might reasonably be expected. That is, unless you want to change visual parts contained within the object boundary in order to attract attention and cause conscious thought about it.

See also

Eye Traces Outline, Mind Matches Patterns


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