Gestalt psychology – is directed to Western psychology, emerged in Germany in the first third of 20th century, that proposed research program of the psyche in terms of coherent structures (gestalts), related to its components.
The subject of Gestalt psychology: Phenomenal Field
The representatives of Gestalt psychology: Wolfgang Köhler, Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, Kurt Lewin.
Gestalt psychology has opposed the principle of consciousness to the elements and built them according to the laws of the association or a creative synthesis of complex mental phenomenon.
The representatives of Gestalt psychology assumed that all manifestations of the psyche obey the laws of gestalt. Parts tend to form a symmetrical whole, the parts are grouped in the direction of maximum simplicity, intimacy, balance. The tendency of every mental phenomenon – is to take a definite, complete form.
Starting with the study of perception, Gestalt quickly broadened its theme including the problems of mental development, the analysis of intellectual behavior of great apes, the consideration of memory, creative thinking, the dynamics of individual needs.
The human psyche and the animal were understood by Gestalt psychology, as a whole “phenomenal field”, which has certain proprieties and structure. The main components of the phenomenal field are figures and backgrounds. In other words, part of what we perceive is clear and full of meaning, while other is only vaguely present in our minds. Figure and background can be interchanged. A number of Gestalt representatives assumed that the phenomenal field is isomorphic to (like) the processes taking place inside the brain.
The most important law, obtained by Gestalt psychology, is the law of the constancy of perception, which fixes the fact that the complete image doesn’t change when its sensor elements (you see the world stable, despite the fact that your position changes in space, etc.). The principle of a holistic mind analysis made it possible for scientific knowledge of the complex soul problems, which were considered inaccessible experimental study.
Gestalt (German Gestalt – is a holistic form or structure) – School of Psychology beginning of the XX century. Founded by Max Wertheimer in 1912.
Basic theoretical principles of Gestalt Psychology:
Postulate: The primary data of psychology are integral structures (gestalts), derived from their constituent components. Gestalt inherent characteristic and its own laws, in particular “law group”, “relationship law” (figure/background).
Gestalt (Gestalt – shape, image, structure) – spatial and visual form perceived objects whose essential properties can be understood by summing the proprieties of their parts. One of the striking examples of this, according to Köhler, is a tune that is recognize even if it is transposed to other elements. When we hear a melody for the second time, then, due to memory, learn it. But if the composition of its elements will change, we still recognize the melody as the same.
Gestalt psychology owes German psychologists Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffa and Wolfgang Köhler, developing the program of psyche study in terms of coherent structures – the gestalt. Speaking against the psychological principle division of consciousness into elements and the construction of this complex mental phenomenon they proposed the idea of image integrity and its properties can’t be reduced to the sum of the properties of elements. According to the great theorists, objects that make up our environment are perceived by the senses, not as separate objects, as well as organized. Perception is not reduced to the sum of sensations and properties of the shape are not described in terms of properties of parts. Actually Gestalt is a functional structure, ordering a variety of individual events.
Principles of Gestalt
All of the above properties of perception – the constant figure, the background – in gestalt is in a relationship with each other and represents a new property. This is the gestalt form quality. The integrity of the perception and its order are achieved through the following principles of Gestalt psychology:
Closeness. Nearby incentives tend to be seen together.
Similarity. Incentives that are similar in size, shape, color or form tend to be seen together.
Integrity. Perception tends to simplicity and integrity.
Insularity. Reflects the tendency to complete a figure so that it takes a full form.
Contiguity. The incentives’ closeness in space and time. Contiguity can predetermine the perception when one event causes another.
Common area. Principles of gestalt form our everyday perception, along with learning and past experiences. Anticipating the thoughts and expectations and actively manage our interpretation of sensations.
A formed Gestalt always is entire, complete structures with clearly defined contours. Contour, characterized by the degree of sharpness, and reticence or open shape, is the basis of a gestalt.
Describing the gestalt concept is used also the importance. The whole may be important, members – unimportant, and vice versa, figure is more important than basics. Importance can be distributed so that as a result all members are equally important (this is a rare event, which occurs, for example, some ornaments).
Gestalt members are of different grades. For example, in terms of: first rank corresponds to the center, second rank has a point on the circle, third – any point within a circle. Each gestalt has its center of gravity, which acts as the center (for example, in the middle of the disk), or as a point of bonding, or as a starting point (it seems that this is the beginning point for the construction of the whole, for example, the base of the column), or as a guide point (for example, arrowhead).
Quality “trans – positivity” manifested in the fast that the image of the whole remains even if all parts change in its material, for example, if it – is different tones of the same tune, but can be lost even if all items are stored, or in the paintings of Picasso (for example, drawing by Picasso “Cat”).
As the basic law of grouping individual items in the Gestalt psychology was postulated the law pregnancy. Pregnancy (from Lat. Praegnans – meaningful, pregnant, rich) – is one of the key concepts of Gestalt psychology, meaning the gestalt achievement, which gained a balanced state “good form”. Pregnant gestalt have the following properties: closed, clearly defined boundaries, symmetry, internal structure, acquiring the shape of the figure. At the same time were identified factors that contribute to the grouping of elements in a holistic gestalt such as “proximity factor”, “factor of similarity”, “factor of good continuation”, “factor common destiny”.
The law of “good” gestalt, proclaimed by Metzeger (1941) states: Consciousness is always prone to make from these perceptions to perceive the simplest, single, closed, symmetric, get included in the spatial axis”. Deviations from “good” gestalt aren’t perceived easy, but only under intense contemplation (for example, approximately equilateral triangle is considered as equilateral, almost a right angle – as a straight one).
The constants in the Gestalt psychology of perception
Constancy in the frame of Gestalt psychology: the perceived size of the object remains constant regardless the changes of the image size on the retina. Perception of simple things may seem natural or innate. However, in most cases it’s formed through personal experience. In 1961, Colin Turnbull took a pygmy that lived in the dense African jungle in the endless African savannah. Pygmy had never seen the objects at a distance, herds of buffalo perceived as swarms of insects, until he was brought up close to animals.
Constancy in the form of Gestalt psychology: is that the perceived shape of the object is constant when you change the form on the retina. Just look at this page first right and then at an angle. Despite the change in the “Picture” page, the perception of its shape remains unchanged.
Constancy in the brightness of Gestalt psychology: the perceived brightness of the object is constant under different lighting conditions. Of course, subject to the same object and the background lighting.
Figure and background in Gestalt
The simplest form of perception is to divide the visual sensations to the object – the figure, located on the ground. Allocation figure from the background and hold the object of perception involves physiological mechanisms. Cells in the brain that receive visual information, when you look at a figure react more vigorously than when you look at the background. (Lamme 1995). The figure has always pushed forward, the background – pushed back, the figure is richer than background content, and brighter that the background. Human thinks about figure but not background. However, their role and place in perception is determined by personal, social factors. Therefore, it is possible the phenomenon of reversible figures, which for example, long-term perception, figure and ground are reversed.
The contribution of Gestalt
Gestalt thought that the whole is not derived from the sum of the properties and functions of its parts (the properties of the whole is not equal to the sum on the properties of its parts), and has a qualitatively higher level. Gestalt psychology has changed the old conception of the mind, arguing that its analysis should not have to deal with individual elements, but with the cohesive mental images. Gestalt psychology was against associative, separating the elements of consciousness. Gestalt psychology, along with the phenomenology and psychoanalysis became the basis of Gestalt therapy, Perls F., who transferred the ideas of Gestalt psychology with cognitive processes to the level of understanding of the world as a whole.