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Gestalt Psychology

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At the turn of the 20th century, a group of German psychologists proposed a different way of looking at cognition and perception.  Rather than the prevalent “structuralism” of psychologists such as Wilhelm Wundt, who sought to identify the separate elements of each mental process, they suggested a more holistic approach.

It took it’s name from the German word gestalt, meaning “form, shape, or essence.”  Gestalt psychology emerged from the work of Wolfgang Kohler, Max Wertheimer, and Kurt Koffka.

According to Gestalt theory, we have an inbuilt tendency to perceive an object as a meaningful whole, rather than piecing together the form of the object from it’s separate parts.

For example, when we see a simple drawing of a square, and when we see particular sequence of flashing lights, we perceive that as motion.  As Koffka put it, “The whole is different from the sum of its parts.”

 

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