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figure-ground phenomenon

noun
  1. the division of the perceptual field into background and objects that appear to stand out against it. The concept was evolved by the Gestalt psychologists, who invented ambiguous figures in which the same part could be seen either as figure or ground
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012