Gestalt Psychology in

wizzstuffingUrban and Civil

Nov 16, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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Gestalt Psychology in
Historical Perspective

Here is a perfect example of an approach
that did not have much staying power as a
system or paradigm,
but ironically,
its
components have passed the test of time
and remain staple concepts in the field.

Hence, the whole may be “greater than the
sum of its parts,” but it’s the “parts” that
have had the greatest impact.



Gestalt Psychology


While behaviorism was becoming the dominant
Psychological theory in the US, along with Freud’s
theory of psychoanalysis, the Gestalt perspective gained
influence in Europe around the same time.


Gestalt psychology was seen as an
alternative to
behaviorism and structuralism.

The early Gestalt
thinkers felt that behaviorism dealt too much with
collecting, tallying, and treating only specific problems,
or parts of a whole.


As opposed to the structuralist approach, which focuses
on particular elements in a configuration, the Gestalt
approach focuses on the configuration itself.

Gestalt Psychology


Gestalt theory views human beings as open systems,
actively and constantly interacting with the environment
around them. Unlike the
elementistic

way of
understanding psychological events, such as
behaviorism,
associationism
, and psychoanalysis, Gestalt
theory is suited to understanding the order and structure
of psychological events.


Gestalt theorists' basic belief was that any psychological
phenomenon, from perceptual processes to human
personality, should be studied holistically; that is, they
should not be broken down into components, but rather
studied as a whole.


As a contrast to structural approaches, the Gestalt
psychologists studied perceptions as complete, indivisible
phenomena.


Similar Earlier Ideas


Plato


true forms existed as ideas.
(circles)


Immanuel Kant


in 1781, he discussed
the mind as having innate abilities which
turned sensations into abstract ideas.


William James


in his opposition to the
study of mental structures, he presented
the idea of a “stream of consciousness.”


Phenomenalists



in opposition to Wundt,
some
introspectionists

studied mental
wholeness.

Max Wertheimer (1880
-
1943)


The beginning of
Gestaltism

is attributed to
Wertheimer in 1910.


While riding a train on a vacation, he comes
up with the idea that perceptions have
structures that sensory stimuli do not have.


In other words, he started exploring the idea
that perceptions contain unique properties
which do not come from nor exist in the
environment (stimulus).

Phi Phenomenon


Wertheimer studied the perception of two lights, side
by side, which blinked alternately.


At roughly 5 or less blinks per second, people
perceived two alternately
-
blinking lights.


At roughly 20 or more blinks per second,
people perceived two constant lights.


Between the two (10 blinks), however,
people perceived one light moving side to
side.


The effect was called the “phi phenomenon.”

Gestalt theory


The phi phenomenon was not a discovery, as
motion pictures had been around for decades.


It was Wertheimer’s explanation of the
phenomenon which constituted the scientific
contribution. The explanation, though, will take
a few slides.


To follow up his finding, Wertheimer created a
set of three blinking lights. The middle light
blinked, then the two outside lights blinked.












Gestalt theory













With these lights (at ten blinks per second),
people perceived a single light that moved in
both directions, then merged back in the middle.


He showed perceptions which could not be
learned (perceiving unnatural movement).


Sensory explanations were inadequate.


Wertheimer needed a “gestalt” theory, which
came together with the help of two assistants …

Koffka and Köhler


Kurt
Koffka

and Wolfgang
Köhler

worked
closely with Wertheimer, and helped to
construct the properties of
Gestaltism
.


Koffka

published the first English article in
1921, called “Perception: An Introduction
to Gestalt
-
Theorie
.” (in Psychological
Bulletin)


In the 1930’s
Köhler

started publishing
articles which related Gestalt theory to the
field theory of physics (the best
explanations of gestalt).

Field Theory Overview (brief)


The theory


the four natural forces (gravity,
electromagnetism, the nuclear forces) exist as
fields
-
of
-
force surrounding all atomic particles.


As with science
-
fiction “force fields,” the fields
can only be observed as the forces they create.


The fields are “whole” in nature. In other words,
when two similar particles come together, the
result is not of two fields, but one stronger field.


Thus, particle fields have a holistic property.

Field Theory and
Gestaltism


Field theory applies to electromagnetism.


Neural activity is electromagnetic activity.


If electromagnetic forces work together to
create a single “whole” force, then the
brain’s electrochemical activity would be
able to create the “whole” within
gestaltic

perceptions.


The explanation was called
“psychophysical isomorphism.” (it only
sounds weird )

Isomorphism


The “force fields” of brain activity would
naturally create a continuous “whole” of
brain activity


as if a stream of
consciousness.


Isomorphism would happen when the
“parts” of sensory input were merged with
the pre
-
existing “whole” of brain activity.


The brain would thus be naturally able to
transform added parts into holistic activity.


… and that is Gestalt Theory.

Perception (the fun stuff)


Gestalt theory is a debatable
theory of neural activity.
Gestalt principles, though, are
important within perception
research.


Figure
-
Ground relationships



Is this image of a vase, or of
two people facing each other.
This is an issue of deciding
the figure (front) and ground
(back).

Gestalt Principles


The figure
-
ground relationship was
actually discovered before the Gestaltists,
but they discovered five more principles,
known as “Gestalt Principles.”


Principle of Continuity


when stimuli have
some continuity, they are perceived as
related parts of a complete unit. That is
why a series of circles can create a line …


o o o o o o o o o o

Complex Continuity


As with all the
principles, continuity
can be complex.


Is there really a
woman there?

Gestalt Principles (cont.)


Principle of proximity


when stimuli are
comparatively close, they are grouped
together.


00 00 00 00 00 (ten, or five pairs?)


Principle of Inclusiveness


With paired
stimuli “A” and “B”, if “A” offers much more
stimulation, then we tend to make “B” a
part of “A”

Proximity

Inclusiveness

Gestalt Principles (cont.)


Principle of Similarity


Similar objects will
form perceptual units.


X O X O


X O X O


X O X O


X O X O


With similar spacing, do the letters seem
more like four rows or four columns.

Gestalt Principles (cont.)


Principle of Closure


an “incomplete” stimulus will be
perceived as a complete stimulus.


The “square” is actually not there.

The Law of Pragnanz


As with physical forces, a gestalt brain
would organize in the simplest way
possible.


The resulting mental essence will be “as
good as conditions will allow.” (will be

Pragnanz
”)


The brain works from top to bottom (top
-
down). It starts with the whole, then
proceeds to address the parts as desired.

Gestalt Learning


The real world is a “geographical
environment” (G.E.)


it is what it is.


The “behavioral environment” (B.E.) is in
our mind (brain)


a subjective
pragnanz

of the G.E..


“Problems” occur when the G.E. does not
match our B.E., which disrupts the brain’s
equilibrium (disrupts the
pragnanz
).


The disruption motivates us to solve the
problem by making a greater effort to
“see” the solution in the geographical
environment.

Gestalt Learning (cont.)


Trial and error


unlike behaviorists, gestaltists
propose that trial and error can occur in the
brain before it occurs in the environment.


Insightful learning


if a problem is presented
with solutions, the learning is retained as an
“insight.” (Monkeys and banana problems)


Transposition


the organism does not learn
responses, but relationships. This is indicated
with transposing learned responses.

Gestalt Contributions to
Psychology


The
gestaltists

were a small group of
researchers with a small presence at
major universities. They were largely
overshadowed by the behaviorists in
experimental psychology.


Still, they made a dramatic impact


holistic experiments, a neuropsychology
theory, merging psychology with physics,
and group dynamics.


Their biggest influence, though, would be
in creating a demand for cognitive
psychology.