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Seeing Perceiving. 2011;24(6):595-621. doi: 10.1163/187847611X603747.

The accentuation principle of visual organization and the illusion of musical suspension.

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Department of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sassari, Alghero, Italy.


The aim of this work is to demonstrate a new principle of grouping and shape formation that we called the accentuation principle, stating that, all else being equal, the elements tend to group in the same oriented direction of the element discontinuity placed within a whole set of continuous/homogeneous components. The discontinuous element is like an accent, i.e., a visual emphasis within a whole. We showed that this principle is independent from other gestalt principles. In fact, it shows vectorial properties not present in the other principles. It can be pitted against them. Furthermore, it is not only a grouping principle but it also influences shape formation, by inducing effects like the square/diamond and the rectangle illusions. Finally, the accentuation operates under stroboscopic conditions and manifests filling-in properties and long range effects. Through experimental phenomenology, it was shown that the accentuation principle can influence grouping and shape formation not only in space but also in time and, therefore, not only in vision but also in music perception. This was suggested by phenomenally linking visual and musical accents and by demonstrating a new illusion of musical suspension, related with its opposite effect, the downbeat illusion. This kind of illusions can be appreciated in two solo piano compositions respectively by Debussy and Chopin-RĂªverie and Nocturne, op. 27 no. 1. Variations in the note where the accent is placed and in the kind of accent demonstrated their basic role in inducing the illusion of musical suspension.

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