Resolve Ambiguities, Impose Structure, Make Connections
Text doesn’t exist in isolation. It is part of a page or a computer screen. And the way the words are organized on the page affects the way they are perceived.
In the 1920s a group of German psychologists studying visual perception learned that the human brain seeks patterns. We don’t see objects in isolation; we see them as part of a greater whole, and we make connections between the individual parts. In fact, we often “see” things that aren’t really there because we are trying so hard to create unity and closure.
If some words or objects are placed more closely together than others, they will be perceived as a group. We use this principle frequently by creating a list with bullet points or by placing a box around certain words or phrases.
When we look at a set of objects, we try to find a way of connecting the diverse elements. If one of the elements is missing, we’ll try and fill the gap.
It is remarkable just how few letters we need in order to work out the meaning of the words: “Th prchas of a hme s lkely th sngle mst mprtant fnancl dcisn y’ll evr mke.” We complete phrases as well: “the more things change . . . .”
We complete partial images as well. We recognize a triangle even if the lines aren’t fully connected.
As a result, it’s important to ensure that you don’t break the vertical flow of the information columns in a table by adding sub headings and horizontal lines.