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What Is Figure-Ground Perception?

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Figure Ground Perception

Rubin vase: An example of figure-ground perception

John smithson 2007 / Wikimedia Commons
Definition:

The term figure-ground perception is used to describe the tendency of the visual system to simplify a scene into the main object that we are looking at (the figure) and everything else that forms the background (or ground).

The concept of figure-ground perception is often illustrated with the classic "faces or vases" illusion, also known as the Rubin vase. Depending upon whether you see the black or the white as the figure, you may see either two faces in profile (meaning you perceive the black color as the figure) or a vase in the center (meaning you see the white color as the figure).

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