Field theory (psychology)

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The psychological field theory , also called topological psychology or vector psychology , goes back to the Gestalt theory . Its co-founder Wolfgang Köhler assumed that psychological processes are field processes to which field processes in the brain also correspond. Similar to the various physical fields , gestalt theory examines and describes very different fields. In its psychological field concepts, Gestalt theory speaks of the phenomenal field, the psychic field and the psychophysical (central nervous) field. Related to these shape theoretical field concepts is that of Thure von Uexküll , according to which the connection and integration of very different forces resulting from the relationship between a person and his environment is decisive for the concept of the field , not the purely physical attributable to these forces (or motive constellations) Properties.

Field of perception, field of experience, field of action

With the field of perception, Gestalt theory means the world clearly encountered in human consciousness in contrast to the physical world that is independent of consciousness. For this clearly encountered, phenomenal world, Gestalt theory postulates field properties in the sense of Albert Einstein's concept of field . In a broader sense, Wolfgang Metzger speaks of the human experience and action field, since this field is not limited to perceptual processes, but also determines experience and behavior. Metzger speaks of the descriptive overall field when not only the perceived world, but also the perceiving, experiencing and acting self is included as part of this field. With the term isomorphism ( equality of shape ), Wolfgang Köhler describes the structural equality he assumed between these phenomenal conditions and processes and the brain processes on which they are based.

Group dynamic field

For the area of ​​human behavior, the field theoretical approach was mainly developed by Kurt Lewin (1890–1947). His theory says that the individual behavior in the respective situation emerges from a given arrangement of psychologically relevant forces ( vector forces ). This behavior can be described with the help of the construct of a mathematically reconstructable living space that includes the person and their environment in their interaction. The environment of an individual is specifically structured according to their type, personality and level of experience.

According to field theory, behavior or action is always field action . The behavioral examination therefore always begins with the examination of the specific situation of the specific person in their specific environment. The situation is not understood in terms of its physical nature, but as it is subjectively experienced. In the course of developing his field theory, Lewin and his colleagues (including Bluma Zeigarnik , Maria Ovsiankina , Anitra Karsten , Wera Mahler , Junius F. Brown ) carried out a series of experimental investigations in Berlin in the 1920s, some of which are still fundamental today Terms and concepts of psychology (level of aspiration, psychological saturation , "unfinished business" etc.)

Lewin's field theory is oriented towards social psychology. With this theory, Lewin also became the founder of the concept of group dynamics . In his opinion, there is also a force field within a group, which can be recognized from the interactions between the individual group members. The American gestalt psychologist and Lewin collaborator Junius F. Brown extended psychological field theory to include a field theory of society even before Lewin himself. Following this theory, psychological field concepts have also been included in various directions of psychotherapy .

Mathematical reconstruction

Lewin assumes that the behavior V is a function of the person P and the environment U : and that P and U in this formula are mutually dependent quantities.

Mathematically, the living space is understood as topological space , a person then represents a subset of the space, the carrier space of the psychological field is the interior of an area delimited by a Jordan curve .

Similar theories

See also


  • Köhler, W. (1920): The physical shapes in rest and in the stationary state . Erlangen: Publishing house of the Philosophical Academy.
  • Lewin, K. (1963/2012): Field theory in the social sciences . Bern: Huber. New edition 2012 by the same publisher, ISBN 978-3-456-85076-4
  • Lück, HE (1996): The field theory and Kurt Lewin. An introduction. Weinheim: Psychology Publishing Union. ISBN 3-621-27327-1
  • Arnold, Wilhelm et al. (Ed.): Lexicon of Psychology. Bechtermünz Verlag, Augsburg 1996, ISBN 3-86047-508-8
  • Grinker, Roy Richard (Senior) (et al., 1953) in: The Psychosomatic Concept in Psychoanalysis. New York.
  • Mey, Harald (1965): Studies on the application of the field term in the social sciences . Munich.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Köhler, Wolfgang : The physical shapes in rest and in the stationary state . Verlag der Philosophischen Akademie, Erlangen 1920. For the further development and scientific response of this approach, see Wolfgang Stadler (1981), Field Theory Today - from Wolfgang Köhler to Karl Pribram . In: Gestalt Theory, 3 (3/4), pp. 185–199.
  2. cf. Paul Tholey & Gerhard Stemberger (2009), field concepts, psychological in the "Lexikon zur Gestalttheorie", Phenomenal 1 (1).
  3. ^ Uexküll, Thure from : Basic questions of psychosomatic medicine. Rowohlt Taschenbuch, Reinbek near Hamburg 1963; Re. "Field theory and integration space", chap. Illness as a split in body and soul: p. 128.
  4. a b Hofstätter, Peter R. (Ed.): Psychology. The Fischer Lexicon, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1972, ISBN 3-436-01159-2 , (a) to Stw. “Perception field”: p. 161; (b) Re. "Environment": p. 28.
  5. cf. Lindorfer / Stemberger 2012: Unfinished Business. The experiments of the Lewin group on the structure and dynamics of personality and the psychological environment.
  6. Junius F. Brown (1936): Psychology and the Social Order . New York, London: McGraw-Hill; discussed in Lück 1996, p. 122ff ( field theory and Kurt Lewin , see literature) and Stemberger, G. (2009), Junius F. Brown (1902-1970) - "Radical field theorist" - bridge builder between Gestalt psychology, psychoanalysis and Marxist social theory . Phenomenal 1 (1), 38-41.
  7. cf. on psychoanalysis : Bruno Waldvogel (1992), Psychoanalysis and Gestalt Psychology , Stuttgart: Frommann; for Gestalt theory psychotherapy : Marianne Soff, Michael Ruh & Dieter Zabransky (2004), Gestalt theory and field theory, in: M. Hochgerner (ed.), Gestalt therapy , Vienna: Facultas, pp. 13–36, and Gerhard Stemberger (2009), Field processes in psychotherapy. The multi-field approach in the diagnostic and therapeutic process. Phenomenal 1 (1), 12-19.