Gestalt psychology was founded by German thinkers Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka. They mainly focused on how people interpret the world around them. The Gestalt perspective formed partially as a response to the structuralism of Wilhelm Wundt, who focused on breaking down mental events and experiences to the smallest elements. Structuralists had failed in explaining the concept of ‘apparent motion’ and ‘illusory contours’.
Gestalt psychologists further recognized that structuralism could not explain many perceptual phenomena. In response, they proposed that perception is based on the organization of stimuli into holistic and meaningful forms. They are well-known for the phrase "the whole is different than the sum of its parts." They proposed several "laws" (really heuristics or "rules of thumb") that are referred to as the Gestalt laws of perceptual organization. These are discussed in the module later on.
3. GESTALT APPROACH TO PERCEPTION
The most concise way to characterize Gestalt psychology is to say that it deals with wholes and its given data are what have been called phenomena. It is because of their strong phenomenological orientation, which explains that wholes are experienced by conscious man and not in parts. For example, in perceiving a melody one gets a melodic form, not a string or a note, a unitary whole that is something more important than the total list of its parts. This is the way experience comes to man, organizing it into significant structured form.
Lets first understand the historical perceptive, from where its role started. 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 is the German word meaning ‘pattern’, ‘form’ or ‘configuration’. The term was introduced into physiological psychology by the German psychologist C.von Ehrenfels and was disseminated by K.Koffka. It was Koffka (1935) who asked, ‘why do things look as they do?’ In
our daily life, our perception of several figures may share a common ground and it may seem that figures tend to cluster together in groups.
Figure 1: K.Koffka identified the Gestalt ideas of perceptual organization
Source: Google images
The question which arises was that, some elements of the perceptual field form the figure while others become ground and why do figural elements group together the way they do? (Look at figure 3.1). The conclusion, arrived by him was that whatever is seen in this world corresponds to the ‘perceptual...