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History and Systems of Psychology

GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY:Max Wertheimer, Similarity, Proximity, Closure

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History and Systems of Psychology ­ PSY502
VU
Lesson 22
GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY
There were two major trends in psychology at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning
of the 20th century. In Europe, Wundt's structuralist psychology was the major influence, and in America
behaviorist psychology was the dominant trend. In 1912 three German psychologists located in and around
Frankfurt, Germany, independently of each other had come to the conclusion that in the past psychologists
had overlooked the linkage between consciousness and behavior. Therefore these psychologists started to
concert efforts to develop a system of psychology that took into view the unity of human beings. These
efforts laid the foundation of a new look called Gestalt psychology, the purpose of which was to avoid
piecemeal study of psychology and to present a holistic view. In other words, the Gestalt psychology
adopted both the behaviorist's views and the structuralists' views. Gestalt is a German word meaning
patterns. The structuralists were focusing on the consciousness as the key element in the study of
psychology while the behaviorists were focusing on the prediction and control of behavior. The group of
students and researchers related to this concept developed the Gestalt School.
Max Wertheimer
Max Wertheimer belonged to the Gestalt school of psychology. He was born in 1886 and died in
1943. He studied at the universities of Prague, Berlin. His original researches, while he was a professor at
Frankfurt and Berlin, placed him in the forefront of contemporary psychology. Wertheimer came to the
United States in 1933, shortly before the Nazis seized power in Germany. Wertheimer's discovery (1910­
12) of the phi-phenomenon (concerning the illusion of motion) gave rise to the influential school of Gestalt
psychology. His early experiments, in collaboration with Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka, introduced a
new approach (macroscopic as opposed to microscopic) to the study of psychological problems. In the
latter part of his life he directed much of his attention to the problem of learning; this research resulted in a
book, posthumously published, called Productive Thinking.
One of the greatest contributions of Wertheimer is that he showed by his experiments that if two
lines are shown to a subject and the time period of exposure between these two lines is small, the subject
sees these two lines as one line moving from its position to the position of the other line. Wertheimer called
this phenomenon "Apparent movement" or phi-phenomenon. Therefore, according to Wertheimer, Phi-
phenomenon or apparent movement is when we see one image move from one place to another, when
physically there is no movement. In case of the lines shown by Wertheimer, the horizontal or the vertical
lines did not move at all, but instead, on line appeared after the other. The interval between the
disappearance and the appearance of the other line was so short that to the subjects it appeared that the
lines were moving from their positions into the other positions. The greatest impact of this discovery can be
seen in its application in the movie camera. When a movie is being played on a cinema screen it is actually
the phi-phenomenon which is working. The images of the movie are all still images captured by the camera
but the interval between the movements of the images is so short that the characters of the movie seem as
moving to the observer. Television is another example where the image is created by a small dot which
moves across the screen and the characters appear to be moving.
Wertheimer explained this phi-phenomenon as being due to a tendency on the part of human mind
to fill in the gaps. For further explanation, when the line which was perceived by the observer as moving is
analyzed, we see that the movement from the horizontal to the vertical or vice versa, has been developed by
the observer's brain, while there is no movement at all. Therefore human mind has the tendency to develop
something to fill into the gap. Based upon this tendency, Wertheimer discovered many factors which help
human beings to perceive things in patterns or Gestalts. He called these factors, the factors of organization.
They are factors that help us to perceive in patterns or Gestalts. Some of these factors are:
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History and Systems of Psychology ­ PSY502
VU
o
Similarity
If you see many dots and small lines, you see dots as one group, pattern, gestalt etc. and lines as
another group. This is similarity leading to gestalts or patterns based on groups.
o
Proximity
If you see many dots close to each other, and then some dots separated, you see the closely located
dots as one group of gestalt. This is nearness or proximity leading to gestalt.
o
Closure
If a part of a familiar shape is missing we tend to fill it up, and see the shape as whole, this is
closure leading to gestalt. For example, if one of the corners of a star is missing, we tend to fill in
the missing part by ourselves and perceive the star as its complete shape. Therefore closure also
results in gestalt.
These are factors that are in the stimulus field that help us to perceive gestalts. There are some subjective
factors also that help in this whole perception. For example, mental set, or set is a subjective factor that
helps perceptual organization. Mental set of set can be explained with the help of the following examples: if
a person is taking a walk in a garden, and before he came here, he was warned by his friend that there were
snakes in the garden; his mental set would be to see snakes in the garden. Therefore, he is likely to confuse a
twig with a snake and be afraid of it. This is an example of mental set.
Habit or familiarity is another factor that leads to perceptual organization. For example, if a person is
familiar with certain objects he may be able to formulate a gestalt very quickly. Same is the case with habit.
Wertheimer, through his observation and experimentation discovered those factors that influence
perception.
Wertheimer also tried to discover what is creative thinking or problem solving thinking. Creative
thinking or problem solving thinking had become a subject of interest for psychologists at the turn of the
century since creative thinking was the key to development as newer fields of study were explored by
mankind. He observed young children and adults in his quest to determine what is creative or problem
solving thinking and how it takes place. He also interviewed one of the greatest minds of the 20th century,
Albert Einstein, to see how he produced his Theory of Relativity. Based upon these observations,
Wertheimer noted various operations related to creative or problem solving thinking. He said we should
avoid a piecemeal approach, not let our biases affect our thinking and should not blindly follow our habits.
In other words, he said that we should ensure that our dispositions do not affect our thinking and we are
able to concentrate on discovering new rather than analyzing new from the already existing point of views.
That is how we can become productive, creative thinkers.
Wertheimer is known as a Gestalt psychologist because he tried to determine the patterns of
perception that an individual follows.
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Table of Contents:
  1. INTRODUCTION:Methodology, Grading, Course Overview up to Midterm
  2. ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHY/PSYCHOLOGY:Socrates, Plato
  3. GREEK THINKERS:Aristotle, Contiguity, Contrast
  4. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 5TH TO 12TH CENTURY:Saint Augustine, Avicenna
  5. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 5TH TO 12TH CENTURY:Al-Ghazali, Ibn-Rushd, Averroes
  6. RENAISSANCE:Rene Descartes
  7. ASSOCIATIONISTS:Thomas Hobbes, John Locke
  8. ASSOCIATIONISTS:David Hume, FRENCH REVOLUTION, Denis Diderot
  9. GERMAN CONTRIBUTION:Wilhelm Liebniz, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Hegel
  10. INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION:RUSSIAN CONTRIBUTIONS
  11. RUSSIAN CONTRIBUTIONS:Ivan Pavlov, Reflex, Acquisition
  12. RUSSIAN CONTRIBUTIONS:Vladimir Bekhterev
  13. IMPACT OF PHYSICAL SCIENCES ON PSYCHOLOGY:Charles Darwin, Gustav Fechner
  14. STRUCTURALIST SCHOOL OF PSYCHOLOGY:Wilhelm Wundt
  15. FUNCTIONALISM:William James, John Dewey
  16. EUROPEAN FUNCTIONALISTS:David Katz, Edgar Rubin, Jean Piaget
  17. BEHAVIORISM:Edward Lee Thorndike, Law of belongingness
  18. BEHAVIORISM:Albert Weiss, Edwin Holt, Learning, Canalization, Walter Hunter
  19. BEHAVIORISM:J.B.Watson
  20. NEO-BEHAVIOURISTS:Clark Hull, Edward Tolman, Edwin Gutherie
  21. NEO-BEHAVIORISTS:B.F. Skinner, Karl Lashley, Donald Hebb, Hobart Mowrer
  22. GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY:Max Wertheimer, Similarity, Proximity, Closure
  23. GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY:Wolfgang Kohler, Kurt Koffka, Edward De Bono
  24. GESTALT SCHOOL AND DYNAMIC PSYCHOLOGY:Kurt Lewin, DYNAMIC PSYCHOLOGY
  25. HISTORICO-EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY:Leon Vygotsky, Sergei Rubenstein
  26. HISTORICO-EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY:Alexei Leontiev, K.M Bykov
  27. SCIENTIFIC LOOK AT MENTAL DISORDERS
  28. SCIENTIFIC LOOK AT MENTAL ILLNESS:Philippe Pinel, Sameul Tuke
  29. SIGMUND FREUD AND THE PSYCHOANALYTIC MOVEMENT:The Superego
  30. SIGMUND FREUD AND PSYCHOANALYTICAL MOVEMENT:Anna Freud
  31. CARL JUNG AND ANALYTICAL PSYCHOLOGY:Carl Gustav Jung
  32. JUNG’S ANALYTICAL PSYCHOLOGY:Carl Gustav Jung
  33. ALFRED ADLER AND INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGY:Alfred Adler
  34. NEO-FREUDIANS:Harry Stack Sullivan, Karen Horney
  35. NEO-FREUDIANS:Karen Horney, Erich Fromm
  36. ERIKSON and MORENO:J.L. Moreno, Protagonist, Audience, Role playing
  37. HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY:Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Positive Psychology
  38. MODERN TRENDS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENT
  39. MODERN TRENDS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENT:Biological Approaches
  40. ANTI-PSYCHIATRY MOVEMENT:D.L. Rosenhan, R.D. Laing, Aaron Esterson
  41. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE THIRD WORLD:Frantz Fanon
  42. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE THIRD WORLD CHINA AND PAKISTAN
  43. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 21st CENTURY
  44. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 21ST CENTURY:Consumer Psychology
  45. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 21ST CENTURY:Sports Psychology, Positive Psychology