I'm looking for a term in the perception / cognition area of research.

I recently saw this visual illusion that 'flips' what is negative-space and what is positive-space. This is known in the arts as "figure-ground reversal"

I am looking for a word / term that addresses when the thing we are observing changes, such that the parts that signify the 'figure' and 'ground' are themselves switched. Is there a word for this? Does Ecological Psychology have a way that it organizes such stimuli?

enter image description here

I would think there may be a term that address when our perception 'flips' the perception of a static image, and afterward we are biased to perceive the 'ground' differently. This happens when we see a vase instead of faces.

But I don't know that word, nor do I know if it applies to the occurrence of when a thing/image/perceptual-field changes, in order to action the figure-ground reversal.

enter image description here


There are many such illusions. It mostly belongs to pattern-recognition and gestalt psychology. From German it means "shape", "form", "essence". To answer your question, I think, here there are illusory contours (when you watch and understand an illusion) and lateral inhibition (when you have got new understanding of the picture and compare it with previous form).

Enjoy more pictures ;)

A man and a woman face A joke about gestalt-psychologists

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Nice thought. I wonder if this is a kind of "lateral inhibition hysteresis"? $\endgroup$ – New Alexandria Jan 23 '16 at 21:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.