Skip navigation
Hardcover | Out of Print | 230 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 194 illus. | October 2006 | ISBN: 9780262134675
Paperback | $35.00 Short | £24.95 | 230 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 194 illus. | August 2009 | ISBN: 9780262513364
eBook | $24.00 Short | August 2009 | ISBN: 9780262252843

Look Inside

Laws of Seeing

Translated by Lothar Spillmann


This classic work in vision science, written by a leading figure in Germany's Gestalt movement in psychology and first published in 1936, addresses topics that remain of major interest to vision researchers today. Wolfgang Metzger's main argument, drawn from Gestalt theory, is that the objects we perceive in visual experience are not the objects themselves but perceptual effigies of those objects constructed by our brain according to natural rules. Gestalt concepts are currently being increasingly integrated into mainstream neuroscience by researchers proposing network processing beyond the classical receptive field. Metzger's discussion of such topics as ambiguous figures, hidden forms, camouflage, shadows and depth, and three-dimensional representations in paintings will interest anyone working in the field of vision and perception, including psychologists, biologists, neurophysiologists, and researchers in computational vision—and artists, designers, and philosophers.

Each chapter is accompanied by compelling visual demonstrations of the phenomena described; the book includes 194 illustrations, drawn from visual science, art, and everyday experience, that invite readers to verify Metzger's observations for themselves. Today's researchers may find themselves pondering the intriguing question of what effect Metzger's theories might have had on vision research if Laws of Seeing and its treasure trove of perceptual observations had been available to the English-speaking world at the time of its writing.

About the Author

Wolfgang Metzger (1899-1979) was a central figure in the Gestalt movement within psychology in Germany. He was Director of the Psychological Institute at the University of Münster.


“An excellent book, with a wealth of inspiring demonstrations and insights. The translators must be thanked for making it available to the English-speaking world.”—Arni Kristjánson, Perception


“This is a timely book, notwithstanding that it was written 70 years ago. It describes many original phenomena that are currently being studied psychophysically and neurophysiologically. A masterpiece even for those who come to it without a background in the psychology of perception, Laws of Seeing stands out for its use of easily understood figures from nature and art, developmental and comparative psychology, as well as nonvisual modalities. It moves the reader toward a deeper understanding of visual perception and a new conception of the visual world.”
John S. Werner, Section of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, University of California, Davis