Does the mind always represent the world accurately and unambiguously?

Perceptual illusions and ambiguous figures were of special interest to the Gestaltists. Artists have also been fascinated by these perceptual phenomenon. Perceptual illusions and ambiguous figures are of special interest in the investigation of thinking because:

  • illusions seem to indicate that our mind does not always accurately represent the perceptual input. For the Gestaltist, this suggested that the mind was "actively" involved in interpreting the perceptual input rather than passively recording the input.
  • ambiguous figures exemplify the fact that sometimes the same perceptual input can lead to very different representations. Again, the Gestaltist took this as suggesting that the mind was actively involved in interpreting the input.
  • what I will call completion figures are figures which the mind rather unambiguously interprets in a particular way despite the fact that the input is incomplete relative to what is typically "seen"

What follows are a variety of examples of these phenomena which you can select and explore.



 Ambiguous Figures

Completion Figures

Some Artists' Versions (click to enlarge)





Productive Thinking...the Gestalt Emphasis

© Charles F. Schmidt