What Is Convergence Psychology?

Updated December 15, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell

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Our eyes are quite complex. There is a reason why some people refer to them as the windows to the soul. They are expressive, and they allow us to see the world around us. With that said, how our eyes operate is a subject in psychology that is quite intriguing. Convergence is an incredibly complex and interesting concept. But before we can understand convergence, we must first look at human perception.

What Is Perception?

It's said that life is how you perceive it, and perception describes just that. Perception is the creation of experience through our five senses. It is how we make sense of the world around us. While most animals have a vision and a way to see the world, how we see the world is much different, making us unique. There are many different theories in psychology and other sciences that try to explain how perception works. We shall look at a few of them. We all touch, taste, smell, and have other senses, and we interpret them in a way that is quite interesting.

Gestalt Theory

Gestalt psychology believes that the entire body is much stronger than the different parts that make it up. Gestalt is German for "whole," and that's what the Gestalt theory looks at: the whole of your body. The theory is that we take the information we have as a whole and organize it into particular groups. This ability has several uses.

Say you see a cat. You will perceive it as one cat. However, if you see a group of cats, you don't interpret them individually. You may say, "that's a lot of cats." We can group what we see together instead of it being individual. If we had a different type of organization, we might think of that group of cats as "cat, cat, cat, cat.” This could make our processing times much more difficult, making us a less-intelligent species.

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According to the Gestalt theory, we group things based on four criteria: similarity, proximity, continuity, and closure. Now, let's look at them.

Similarity: This is when we group objects together based on similarity. Let's use the cat analogy again. Say we find a group of black cats and white cats. We may group them based on their color. It makes it easier for us to organize the group. We will do that to many objects, including people. We may group people together based on their hair, or skin.

Proximity: We will group things based on how close they are together. If you see a cat, walk a little bit, and see another cat, you probably aren't going to group those two cats because of how far apart they are. However, you might group them if they were close. This is the essence of proximity.

Continuity: This is when we see a pattern, and then take that pattern and assign it to something else if it applies. Let's say you were on a building, and you look down and see a bunch of cats. They stand together in two lines, with one crossing the other at a 90º angle. You may see a T-shaped pattern based on the continuity. This is the essence of continuity.

Closure: This is when we complete gaps in an object because of its familiarity. Let's say you see a drawing of whiskers, pointy ears, and eyes, but nothing else. Your mind may try to take these and form a complete picture of a cat based on the clues you have been provided.

Perception And Constancy

Another thing we take for granted is how our minds can keep something once we've processed it. Let's say a giant cat was stomping across the city. If you were looking at it from afar, it might look small because of the distance. However, once you walk towards it, it's huge. If you didn't have constancy, your brain would have to reprocess its size the closer you get.

Instead, our brains use constancy. This is when we can recognize a quality, like the  height of a giant cat, regardless of distance. This is known as perceptual constancy. Imagine being unable to process size whenever you are approaching an object. It would require a lot of processing for you to keep up. Thanks to perceptual constancy, you don't have to do that.

When it comes to constancy, there are three types: size constancy, shape constancy, and brightness constancy. Let's look at them.

Size constancy: This is when we look at an object and can see that it is the same size no matter the distance we are from it. Depending on the distance, an object can look small or big. Even a small toy can look bigger if you are close to it, but you know it's small regardless of what your eyes see.

Size constancy applies to other senses as well. Say you're at a concert. The music is loud, and it's not good. So you walk away from the concert. As you do so, the music gets less loud. However, you know the band isn't turning down their instruments.Instead, the distance between you and the band has affected how strong the sound is.

Shape constancy: this makes us be able to perceive an object as the same shape even if we are viewing it at a different angle. What do we mean by this? Say you're looking at a frisbee. From a certain angle, that frisbee can look like a crescent. However, we realize that it's just the angle, and the frisbee is still a circle in the end.

Brightness constancy: This is when we realize that brightness doesn't affect colors. Let's look at an example. Say your pants are dark blue. Outside, you can see the blueness. However, if you go to a darker area inside, or it gets dark outside, it looks black. If you didn't have color constancy, your brain would always reprocess the color with every change it has, and you may wonder why your clothes are changing colors. However, this is not the case at all. Instead, you realize that the lighting can affect how colors are perceived, and you don't worry about it at all.

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Distance And Perception

When you can perceive distance, your brain uses monocular and binocular cues. Let's look at what those are.

Monocular: This is what you can see by using just one eye. Using your one eye, you can see an object's size, texture, overlap, shading, height, and clarity.

Size: This is the quality that tells us that if an image is larger, smaller, or closer or further to us. This especially applies if there are two similar objects and one's bigger.

Texture: We perceive a surface to have a smoother texture as we get further away from it. If we see a cat, we can begin to see all of its strands of fur if we get closer.

Overlap: If an object is covering another object, we see the covering object as closer to us.

Shading: This can tell us the distance. This is the shadow an object creates.If an object casts a long shadow, it will be closed and may overlap further objects.

Height: If an object is higher than our field of vision, it's seen as farther away. Meanwhile, an object that's near the bottom of our field of vision is closer according to our perception.

Clarity: This is when an object becomes clearer as you get closer to it and blurs when you are further away from it. Our eyes are designed so that the closer we are to it, the more important it is, and thus clearer.

Now, let's talk about binocular cues. This is where the concept of convergence finally comes in. Binocular cues require both eyes for them to work. In other words, someone who is missing an eye may have trouble with these cues. These cues involve convergence and retinal disparity.

The retinal disparity is the distance between two different objects. When you see two objects, you can be able to see the distance. It can make it harder for you to see the distance whenever you have retinal disparity.

Convergence deals with the closeness of an object. If an object is closer, it your eyes must turn inward in order to focus on it. If you converge your eyes more (in other words, turn them inward), the object will appear to be closer.

And that is perception. We take our vision for granted as humans, but when you come to look at it from a scientific angle, it makes us realize just how awesome our eyes are.

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If you believe you are experiencing an issue with convergence, you may need to consult an optometrist. Breakdowns in the way that we perceive and process information, including problems with convergence, can also indicate a mental illness or psychological disorder. The general population experiences mental illness at higher rates than you might think. One recent survey indicated that nearly one-third (31%) of respondents were experiencing mental health symptoms. Because of this prevalence, a huge number of issues go unreported. But online therapy is correcting this trend. As online counseling becomes more affordable and accessible, more and more people are seeking it out.

If you want to address any mental health concerns you have—involving convergence or anything else—you can speak to a counselor today. A BetterHelp counselor can get you the help you need. What’s more, they can be reached from the convenience and comfort of your own home. Read what others have to say about their experiences with BetterHelp below.

“I have been so thankful for the journey with Stephanie. Stephanie has been fantastic and would highly recommend engaging with her especially if you are someone who is new to counseling and/or slightly skeptical of counseling! My perception has completely altered and I am so thankful for the positive thought provoking sessions. At times it was challenging but in a great way to stimulate growth and I have always felt safe and trusting. Stephanie has been patient, allowing me to grow and change my mindset in regards to allowing counseling to be a positive experience with a focus on growth and self care. Thank you so much Stephanie!!”

“The 8 sessions that I have had with Julie have had a surprising impact on my situation, helping to shift my perceptions and move me forward significantly along my path towards healing and happiness. I have felt very supported by Julie, not just within the sessions but also afterwards when she follows up with thoughts and suggestions for reading. What I have found particularly helpful is Julie’s straightforward and pragmatic approach. I have no hesitation in highly recommending her.”

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