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'Figure-ground' refers to the ability to separate elements of a scene or picture based on contrast. In the case where one object's color or shade is considered the foreground, it is difficult to see the other shade as anything but background. A paradoxical image of two contrasting shades fit together into one image demonstrates how difficult it can be to perceive both images simultaneously. This can be a demonstration of the difficulty of dealing with paradox.

A figure is a unitary percept having structure and coherence that is the object of attention and that stands out against a ground.

""The individual perceives the environment as a total unit; he/she responds to the whole of what is seen and this whole is composed of the stimuli of which the person is aware or to which he/she attends, the ""spontaneous concentration"" of contact (the figure) and those of which the person is not aware or does not attend (the ground). The figure/ground process is perceptual and changes momentarily.
For example, the classic Gestalt perceptual picture of the old and young woman, two persons can be perceived, an old woman and a young woman. When the old woman is figural all the rest of the picture is ground; when the young woman is figural the old woman disappears into the ground."" See Figure & Ground