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Eye Traces Outline

 

Explanations > Perception > Visual Perception > Eye Traces Outline

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

When the eye finds a line, a key reason why it then follows the line is because it is seeking to trace around the outline of an object.

In tracing the outline, the eye is pretty forgiving, for example allowing for gaps in the line (for example where there are objects in front of the line).

When the outline is completed, the mind will then try to guess what the object is. If necessary, it will send the eye back to to the object to seek further detail.

Example

Looking at a dolphin coming out of the water, we do not see all of the dolphin, but we can trace the visible outline and then match it to dolphin images we have seen before.

A person is standing behind a lamp post. I trace their outline, continuing the momentum of the line where the lamp post obscures the person.

Discussion

In order to navigate the world around us, we need to identify the things we can see. This means separating out objects. When we know what the object is, we can then decide what to do about it, particularly whether we can safely ignore it or whether we realize we will have to deal with it in some way.

When tracing outlines we often do not get to see all of the outline, so we have to guess. While we are generally skilled at this guesswork, we can also be wrong, for example where what looks at first glance like a dolphin turns out to be a shark.

In graphic diagrams, including with text and cartoons, outlines are often exaggerated in order to simplify identification and to draw attention to the object.

In nature, animals which are prey often have colouring that makes it difficult for predators to trace their outline by the use of camouflage coloration that blends into their background habitat.

So what?

When presenting images to people, if you want them to recognize items, ensure the outline is very clear, for example by showing a dark object on a light background. Also of course avoid having things in front of the key object.

You can even use just the outline of a familiar object as a 'tease' that the person will probably recognize.

See also

Eye Follows Line

 

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