Current genesis

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Actual genesis ( late Latin actualis “active”, “effective” and genesis ) is a term derived from Gestalt psychology . This describes the emergence of a perception from more complex, holistic preliminary designs or the process of differentiating perceptual content.

If the term is limited to human perception, the actual genesis describes that a complex object (or stimulus ) is not fully grasped immediately, but recorded in a process in individual steps. These steps are not taking place consciously.

In a broader sense, other psychological processes can also be described in this way. For example, the emergence of emotions: from the first impression of a situation, several steps are followed until one is fully aware of the experience (perception of one's own feelings that the situation triggers). The emergence of emotions may run differently, depending on the triggering event and person. The development of a possible feeling of envy or jealousy of a little boy towards the newborn brother is different than the shock reaction when driving a car when an obstacle appears directly in front of the car.

Empirical Findings

The facts of the (“hologene”) actual genesis in the field of visual perception were described and systematically examined for the first time by Erich Wohlfahrt (1925/32), a student of Friedrich Sander , co-founder of the Leipzig School of Gestalt Psychology (“Genetic Holistic Psychology ”). Wohlfahrt had luminous line patterns projected onto the retina of his test subjects, initially on a small scale, so that they mostly only saw a small, bright, diffuse, undifferentiated “spot”. With systematic enlargement of the stimulus pattern, they gradually saw the object more and more differentiated, until it finally appeared to them as a fully differentiated perception (perception experience ) as is possible for the normal sighted person who looks at the object in sufficient size and stimulus strength and with sufficient attention . Instead of using the method of optical magnification, it is also possible to generate actual genetic differentiation series over several "pre-forms" up to the "final form" by increasing the initially smallest stimulus duration and by reducing the peripheral distance of the stimulus from the fovea, the point with the sharpest eyesight . By continuously reducing the stimulus strength, the opposite process can also be generated, the "actuallyse", that is, a series of gradual dedifferentiation of the perception. Since the Gestalt psychologists of the time could not theoretically do anything with the actual genetic facts, they fell into oblivion, but also as a result of forgeries by Sanders and two of his students.

Differentiation from other genesis terms

While ontogenesis describes the personal development of an individual (e.g. from infant to pensioner) and phylogenesis describes the phylogenetic development (e.g. from vertebrate to mammal), actual genesis refers to a current event in the life of an individual , In other words, the development of a current situational fact (whether it is a perception experience, emotion, or the like).


Lexicon of Psychology. A to E. Spectrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg 2000, ISBN 3-8274-0312-X .

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