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Gestalt Psychology

Shashank Nakate Mar 9, 2020
Gestalt, which in German means the shape or essence of an entity's complete form, is a psychology theory and its related concepts are presented in the following story.
The word 'gestalt' is used to describe a concept in which the 'whole' is considered greater than the sum of all its parts. This very concept is the essence/core of this psychology; it can also be used as its definition. In the German language, 'gestalt' is a word used to describe the term, 'form'.
The structuralism theory of Wilhem Wundt received opposition from this psychology theory. Studying the structural elements in order to get an idea about the whole entity/phenomenon proves to be useful only in a few cases. Most of the time, it doesn't give an idea of the intrinsic nature of that particular concept.
Christian von Ehrenfels from the 'School of Brentano' introduced this concept and the philosophers/thinkers who influenced its development were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ernst Mach, and Immanuel Kant.

The Theory

In the words of Max Wertheimer, "There are wholes, the behavior of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined by the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt theory to determine the nature of such wholes." This statement by Max Wertheimer gives more importance to the nature of the whole, instead of assigning greater value to the sum total of its structural components.

The Laws

There are different laws which were developed by psychologists based on this theory. Here are some examples that will help explain the laws in a better manner and help you understand the basic concept from different angles.

Law of Proximity

As per the law of proximity, the objects/elements that are in proximity to each other are perceived as coherent. For example, if elements are placed in proximity to each other, in a single horizontal line, the whole arrangement/structure seems to be a single row.

Law of Good Continuation

According to the law of good continuation, establishment in a particular implied direction by a set of elements causes the human mind to continue that particular contour/outline. For example, people generally tend to draw a continuous line when given a pen/pencil.

Law of Similarity

The law of similarity states that few dissimilar elements in a particular group/pattern of elements merge/blend in the whole and appear to be a part of this structure.

Law of Pragnanz

The concept underlying this law is very interesting to study. A particular stimulus received by the mind is organized/transformed in a manner that a pattern appears to be simple, symmetrical, and regular (or simply, of good form).

Law of Closure

The law of closure states that the human mind generally ignores/neglects gaps present in a particular pattern/drawing. Our mind indulges in the activity of creating a virtual contour/outline, in order to enclose the given space or gap in a pattern.

Law of Figure/Ground

As per the law of figure, a given stimulus is perceived in a manner that it appears to be separate/detached from the ground/figure of the pattern in question. Ground reversals are generally used to create patterns which appear to be surprising for the senses.

Methodological Principles

The traditional methodology of studying scientific concepts was that of breaking the given objective into parts to make them less complex. This manner of research was completely redefined by the proponents of this psychology theory. The methodological principles that were developed on this psychology are presented below.

Biotic Experiments

The biotic experiments are those in which the classical methodology of laboratories is not followed. Such experiments are conducted in the natural/real conditions. The purpose behind conducting experiments in real-life conditions is to understand a particular phenomenon from a real life perspective than creating artificial scenarios/situations.

Phenomenon Experimental Analysis

This methodological principle indicates that the study of psychology needs to be carried out in such a manner that the sensory qualities are the only factors taken into account.
This psychology opens a new channel through which human mind can be studied in a much better manner.