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Wolfgang Kohler's Contributions To Learning Essay

1285 words - 5 pages

Wolfgang Kohler's Contributions to Learning

Learning affects an individual's behavior through cognition in many ways. One of the most obvious ways is the acquiring of a skill. Kohler, a Gestaltist, was a believer in the value of perception and insight in terms of our cognition and how we are more than our behavior… that we actually have mental processes that govern our capacity to solve problems and make decisions in regards to learning and behavior. Kohler performed many experiments with chimpanzees to assist his theory about perception and insight. Although, we cannot confine our learning to solely abiding in Kohler's theory, he was still able to allow room for the reflective places in cognition and how we go about using these tools.

Learning is defined in Compton's Online Encyclopedia as "the lifelong process of acquiring skills, information, and knowledge." Many scientists now define learning as the organization of behavior based on experiences. There are many other definitions of learning because there are many other theories about how humans and other animals learn. But, all learning involves an interaction between an individual's brain, and the rest of the nervous system, and the environment…the surrounding world. Some theorists insist that learning takes place by organizing one's perceptions in certain useful ways. In a famous demonstration of learning by insight, the German-American psychologist, Wolfgang Kohler, showed that chimpanzees fit several sticks together in a makeshift pole to obtain food that was otherwise out of reach. Their behavior suggested a sudden understanding of how to solve the problem rather than achieving their goal by trial and error. This is an example of the cognition theory of learning…that is, learning by perceiving and using insight or knowledge.
Wolfgang Kohler was born in Reval, Estonia, as the son of German parents. When he was six, the family moved to Germany and settled in Wolfenbuttell. Kohler attended the universities of Tubingen, Bonn and Berlin, receiving his PhD in 1909. In the same year, he started to work at the Psychological Institute in Frankfurt-am-Main. There he met Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka, with whom he lay foundations of the Gestalt psychology. It was born as a reaction to the behavioristic theories of Watson and Pavlov and focused mainly on the nature of perception. In 1913, Kohler became director of the Anthropoid Station of the Prussian Academy of Sciences on the Island of Teneriffe. He remained there through WWI and started to work on The Mentality of Apes. After his return to Germany, Kohler became director of the Psychological Institute at the University of Berlin. He founded with his colleagues discussion forum about Gestalt Psychology. Because of the Nazi interference with his work, Kohler immigrated to the United States in 1935 (Lefrancois 2000). He continued to write books in...

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