Measures of Prägnanz?

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Prägnanz was suggested by Max Wertheimer in the 1920s as subsuming all “Laws of Gestalt” as they apply to visual awareness. Thus, it assumes a prominent position in any account of Gestalt phenomena. From a phenomenological perspective, some visual stimuli evidently “have more Prägnanz” than others, so Prägnanz seems to be an intensive quality. Here, we investigate the intricacies that need to be faced on the way to a definition of formal scales. Such measures naturally depend both upon the stimulus and upon the observer. Structural complexity bottlenecks of visual systems play a role, as well as the relevance to biological fitness, that is the affinity to the optical user interface. This positions the notion of Prägnanz squarely within the realm of biology. Indeed, the familiar “releasers” of ethology are singular cases of extremely high Prägnanz.

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