Visual Perception Online Laboratory

Purdue University

Gestalt Laws of Proximity and Similarity

The Gestalt Psychologists formulated the Laws of Perceptual Organization, which describe how the visual scene is grouped into its various parts.

This demo introduces the Law of Similarity and the Law of Proximity.

The Law of Similarity states that similar items tend to be grouped together.

The Law of Proximity states that items near to one another tend to be grouped together.


1.) Start by clicking on the 'Start Demo' button below. A new frame will pop up. (Note: if you are using MS Internet Explorer or a PC version of Netscape, you may want to resize your new frame. Also, you will need to click your mouse somewhere inside the new frame to get things rolling for either of these 2 platforms.)

2.) First, manipulate similarity without manipulating proximity. Click 'Proximity' in the menubar and choose 'Proximity Bias: None'. Then click 'Similarity' in the menubar. Try 'Similarity Bias: Row'. Then try 'Similarity Bias: Column'. What happens?

3.) Second, manipulate proximity without manipulating similarity.

4.) Now, manipulate both similarity and proximity together. Start with 'Similarity Bias: Row'. Is there an increased bias towards seeing rows, when 'Proximity Bias: Row' is also selected? What happens when 'Proximity Bias: Column' is selected instead? Try the various combinations. Does the effect of similarity 'overpower' the effect of proximity (or vice versa?)?

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This page constructed and maintained by Michael R. Scheessele. Last Revised 01/06/98.
©1998, Purdue University