The Gestalt psychologists, especially Max Wertheimer, developed a number of “laws” that predict how perceptual grouping occurs under a variety of circumstances (Wertheimer, 1923/1938). Technically, in sciences, laws are predictions that are true. In reality, these laws are better classified as principles, which are true most of the time. However, the term law has stuck with these principles because they were established so long ago. So we will continue to refer to them as laws, even though technically they are not scientific laws.
The Law of Symmetry is the gestalt grouping law that states that elements that are symmetrical to each other tend to be perceived as a unified group. Similar to the law of similarity, this rule suggests that objects that are symmetrical with each other will be more likely to be grouped together than objects not symmetrical with each other. This is a lawful statement of the role of symmetry in determining figure-ground perception.
Use this activity to explore how the Law of Symmetry operates.
To see the illustration in full screen, which is recommended, press the Full Screen button, which appears at the top of the page.
Below is a list of the ways that you can alter the illustration. The settings include the following:
Symmetry: Choose what has symmetrical edges. To the left, the blue
areas have symmetrical edges, and to the right, the white (or gray or black) areas have
Brightness: Set the brightness of the areas that are initially white.
New Pattern: Generate a new pattern. The shapes are randomly selected.
Pressing this button restores the settings to their default values.