Schematic Perception

June 1960

Schematic Perception

J. J. Gibson, Cornell University

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One way of formulating the schematic tendency of perception (or the schematic nature of perception?) is to use Hochberg’s formula — “That perceptual response will usually be obtained to a stimulus whichrequires the least amount of information to specify.” Hochberg sees this principle is similar to the “minimum principle” of Gestalt theory. But it seems to me that the formula is backwards in a sense. It should read: The percept of an object tends to be that which specifies the object by its distinctive features, or only the information required to specify the uniqueness of an object tends to be perceived. The principle, as phrased, is exemplified in painting, especially in caricature.

This principle means that the so-called process of organization in perception is not one of economy in producing form & structure but one of economy in determining the diagnostic features of forms and structures.