Gestalt psychology, also known as gestaltism or configurationism, is a field of study under psychology that emerged in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria as a theory of perception that was a rejection of basic principles of Edward Titchener’s and Wilhelm Wundt’s structuralist and elementalist psychology.
As used in Gestalt psychology, the German word Gestalt meaning ‘form’ is used to interpret patterns or configurations. Gestalt psychologists put a lot of emphasis on the fact that organisms perceive entire configurations or patterns, not just individual components. This view can be summarized using the adage, A whole is more than the sum of its parts’. Gestalt principles, similarity, figure-ground, proximity, continuity, connection, and closure, describe how humans perceive visuals with respect to different environments and objects. Gestalt psychology was founded on the basis of the works done by Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka.
Gestalt psychology made several contributions to the body of psychology. It was the first to empirically demonstrate and document several facts about perception, including facts about the perception of contour, perceptual constancy, perceptual illusions, and perception of movement. Wertheimer’s discovery of the φ phenomenon is an example of such a contribution. Additionally, apart from discovering perceptual phenomena, the contributions of Gestalt psychology include:
- A unique theoretical framework and methodology
- A set of perceptual principles
- A well-known set of perceptual grouping laws
- A theory of problem-solving based on insight
- A theory of memory
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