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Law of Proximity: Examples, Lesson & Quiz

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Taught by

Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

In this lesson we'll discuss the Gestalt principle of organization in relation to the Law of Proximity. This principle states other things being equal, objects that are near to one another are perceived as belonging together as a unit.

Law of Proximity

The Law of Proximity states objects that are near, or proximate, to each other tend to be grouped together. It is part of the Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization and Gestalt psychology, which was founded by Max Wertheimer. Wertheimer noted that rapid sequences of events create the illusion of motion. An example of this would be movies or motion pictures. Movies are actually a rapid succession of still images that create a seamless visual experience. This is also known as the phi phenomenon.

Perceptual Organization

The Laws of Perceptual Organization are a set of perceptual organization principles that explain how smaller objects are grouped to form large objects. Likewise, the Law of Proximity is a visual and perceptual organization concept that states when movement and grouping happen visually, our minds fill in any missing information. The whole is greater than a sum of its individual parts has influenced the discovery of phenomena that often occur during the visual perception of things we see.

Basically, the Law of Proximity states that the brain more closely associates objects close to each other than it does when objects are spaced far apart. It is thought this kind of clustering occurs because humans often have a natural inclination to want to group and organize things in a neat and organized manner. In the example below, the blue circles on the left present as a group of vertical circles. The blue circles on the right appear to be grouped in two horizontal rows.

Law of Proximity

In the example below, birds are flying and we often group how they fly into a 'V' form. This is also true for airplanes and air show formations that display flying skills. When this law is used, the viewer is more likely to gather the visual data and proximities in what's being presented in order to look for underlying messages within the image so he or she can respond accordingly.

Bird V Formation

A great example of this concept would be the art of Claude Monet. Monet's art is not composed of paint strokes, but is actually colored dots/dabs organized to form a picture. If you stand close to an actual Monet, you would be able to see the individual dots. However, in order to see the picture as a whole, you would have to stand away from the picture. Standing away from the picture visually organizes the dots into an image organized by principles such as the Law of Proximity.

Monet Closeup

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