Without telling you, if you visualise three separate circles, one of them being red, one of them being yellow and one of them being green, do I need to tell you what they mean? Why do you know the meaning of these circles if they are totally out of context? If you were on a remote island in the Pacific and you saw these circles, would they mean the same thing? We are sure they would, and it is thanks to Gestalt, to The Law of Past Experience.
We are continually using Gestalt psychology to reduce our mental effort to create patterns (or configurations), so we find it difficult to look for different meanings to a signifier. If we see three circles, we engage it at an impossible speed to what is a traffic light thanks to the constant and repetitive conditioning of the signifier:signified relationship in our previous experiences.
Thanks to this lies the vast majority of virtually universal icons: the floppy disk, raising or lowering the font size, printing, language flags...
When we perceive a signifier we will always simplify its meaning in order to "save mental costs", as when we see glyph unions such as "I3", is it an "L" and a "3", or a "B"?
A closely related concept is Isomorphism, which is the construction of a system similar to the original model, so we can say that the signifier of the similar system results in the meaning of the original system.
Do not confuse Isomorphism with Skeuomorphism, where in the first concept, there are formal similarities and correspondences between the two systems, while the second is a technique of using formal aspects of the original system to intentionally emulate a similar system.
What a mess.
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