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Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules by Jeff Johnson

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Chapter 2. Our Vision is Optimized to See Structure

Early in the twentieth century, a group of German psychologists sought to explain how human visual perception works. They observed and catalogued many important visual phenomena. One of their basic findings was that human vision is holistic: Our visual system automatically imposes structure on visual input and is wired to perceive whole shapes, figures, and objects rather than disconnected edges, lines, and areas. The German word for “shape” or “figure” is Gestalt, so these theories became known as the Gestalt principles of visual perception.

Today’s perceptual and cognitive psychologists regard the Gestalt theory of perception as more of a descriptive framework than an explanatory and predictive ...

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