Gestalt theory was first introduced by Christian von Ehrenfels. This Austrian philosopher lived from 1859 to 1932 conducting most of his scientific work in the 1880’s and 1890’s. He went to secondary school in Krems and then attended the Hochschule für Bodenkultur, Vienna from where he later transferred to the Universität Wien. He got his qualification in 1888 in Vienna for his Über Fühlen und Wollen (On Feeling and Willing). From 1896 to 1929 he worked as professor of philosophy at the German University of Prague. He is praised as the founder of gestalt psychology movement.

Key Concepts of the Theory and Definitions

Key concept A key concept of gestalt theory is that something that is ‘seen’ is only appearing to the seer as such and not as what can ‘actually be there’. Definition: That is, the conscious experience must be considered by taking into account all the physical and mental aspects of the individual simultaneously (Green & Georgeson, 1996).

Key concept Another key concept of gestalt theory is that solely by analyzing parts one cannot understand the nature of the whole. Czech psychologist Max Wertheimer uniquely contributed to the development of the theory by insisting that the notion of the "gestalt" should be considered as perceptually primary and as such that defines the parts which constitute it, rather than it should be viewed as some secondary quality emerging from these parts (Hothersall, 2004). Definition: Ehnrenfels pointed out that something enables us to recognize a melody even when the melody is played in a new key. It is so because the sum of the elements is different, yet the melody is the same. It is clear therefore that man’s actions are not only a result of his own ego – only under special circumstances does a group of people constitute a mere – it is sum of independent Egos (Schulte, 1938).

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Key concept The third key concept of gestalt theory is learning as a reorganization of a whole situation using insight. Definition: This concept contrasts the behavioral psychology approach asserting that learning is an association between responses and stimuli.

Key Terms and Definitions

Gestalt effect This is the form-generating ability of our senses, i.e. it deals with the visual recognition of whole of the forms and figures instead of a plain collection of simple curves and lines. Principle of totality This is the conscious experience which is considered globally since the nature of a mind demands each feature to be considered as a part of dynamic relationships within the system. Principle of psychophysical isomorphism This is a correlation that exists between cerebral activity and conscious experience. Phenomenon experimental analysis is viewed through the context of the principle of totality; every psychological research uses as a starting point any phenomenon and cannot be focused exclusively on sensory qualities. Biotic experiment These are real experiments that harshly contrast with and oppose classic laboratory experiments. Law of Prägnanz states that people tend to order their experiences in a condition that is regular, symmetric, orderly, and simple.

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