Gestalt psychology

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After looking at it for a long time, the cube “tips”. It has this tilting as changeling called

As Gestalt psychology one direction within the psychology referred describing human perception as the ability to identify structures and organizing principles in sensory impressions. The word “Gestalt psychology” can only apply to a limited extent as a clearly definable scientific term; it is, in part, an organically grown name through its use for a number of similar conceptions. The Gestalt psychologies of different directions are derived from a single work from 1890 in which the philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels reported his finding that perception contains qualities that do not result from the arrangement of simple sensory qualities. The melody is such a quality of form, because the tones as elements of the melody could be replaced by completely different tones, and it would still be the same melody if only the relationship between the tones was retained.

Classical Gestalt psychology

Berlin School of Gestalt Psychology (Gestalt Theory)

Based on the observations of v. Ehrenfels' “Gestalt psychology” emerged as a new psychological direction at the beginning of the 20th century. It first became influential in the German-speaking world, then also internationally. Its founders and main exponents are three students of Carl Stumpf : Max Wertheimer , Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka . In a broader sense, Kurt Lewin can also be assigned to this group. This "Berlin School of Gestalt Psychology" was also called " Gestalt theory " and expanded its subject beyond perception. It is best known and famous for its extensive experimental research in the field of perception and is still represented at the beginning of the 21st century . A distinction is made between three types of gestalt qualities of perceptual experience (Metzger 1954, pp. 62-65), without specifying a system within these types:

  • Structure (structure and tectonics) such as straight, round, symmetrical, closed, pointed, wavy;
  • Whole texture like transparent, luminous, rough, yellow;
  • "Essence" such as character, habitus, emotional value.

In the older Gestalt psychology from the beginning of the 20th century, “gestalt law” is used synonymously with “gestalt factor”, “factor”, “law” or also with “grouping law”. A gestalt law describes the type of amalgamation of experienced parts to an experienced whole , often next to a group of individual circumstances. "The merger is carried out so that the whole resulting in any way from other possible classifications awarded gestaltlich are", namely u. a. so, "that the simplest, uniform, ... closed, ... symmetrical, ... homogeneous whole structures are created" ( Wolfgang Metzger 1954, p. 108 f). Many illustrative examples have been compiled for this and a few other types of association that immediately convince the viewer. Certain facts have been classified so that one can speak of a descriptive theory; however, an explanatory theory for them has not been developed.

Gestalt laws

Law of proximity
Law of similair
Law of good continuation
The edges of the cube are imaginary; they are generated by our brain according to the law of closeness

In 1923, Wertheimer formulated six essential factors for the formation of connections in perception. Since then, these gestalt factors have often been referred to as gestalt laws (Wertheimer himself did not use this expression in his pioneering work in 1923, but only spoke of factors):

Law of proximity
Elements with small distances to one another are perceived as belonging together.
Law of similair
Similar elements are more likely to be experienced as belonging together than dissimilar elements.
Law of good shape (or simplicity or conciseness)
It is preferred to perceive shapes in a memorable ( concise tendency ) and simple structure (= "good shape" ). result.
Law of Good Continuation (or Continuous Line)
Lines are always seen as following the simplest path. If two lines cross, we do not assume that the course of the lines makes a kink at this point, but we see two straight, continuous lines.
Law of unity
Structures are preferred that seem more closed than open.
Law of common fate
Two or more elements moving in one direction at the same time are perceived as a unit or shape.

In addition to these laws formulated by Wertheimer, Stephen Palmer found three other Gestalt laws in the 1990s:

Common region law
Elements in demarcated areas are perceived as belonging together.
Law of simultaneity
Elements that change at the same time are perceived as belonging together.
Law of connected elements
Connected elements are perceived as one object.

Gestalt Law Applications

Gestalt laws are used in different media. This concerns the structure of websites (the logout icon is red and stands out from other icons - the law of similarity is broken), the structure of advertising magazines and in various technical applications. In the case of the last point mentioned, this concerns the numbers that are close together (law of proximity), as well as a uniform size of the keys (law of similarity). As a further example, a keyboard could be named, which also uses several gestalt laws.

Law of Similarity implemented in the field of technology

Leipzig School of Gestalt Psychology (Genetic Holistic Psychology)

The philosopher Felix Krueger and the psychologist Friedrich Sander founded the so-called " Second Leipzig School " of Gestalt psychology. A special feature of this school is the intensive inclusion of human movement in the research process under the direction of Otto Klemm . While the Berlin school held the view of immanence to experience, according to which experiences emerge from experiences, the Leipzigers were of the opinion that experiences are conditioned by circumstances beyond the experience. They set an area of ​​transphenomenal spiritual being which they called “structure”. There were no more concrete explanations of this assumption; Well-known are the general remarks on the "problem of mental being" by Albert Wellek . It is particularly problematic that Sander used the Gestalt laws postulated by him in an ideologically overloaded context to propagate the National Socialist worldview. According to his writings, the tendency towards the “good shape” postulated by him was not just a universal tendency to eliminate “things alien to the shape” from personal perception. Rather, the shape closure postulated by Sander was also a quasi-natural phenomenon where the “good shape” of the German-Aryan people tended to kill everything “foreign to shape” (such as Jews, communists, homosexuals, etc.). For example, Friedrich Sander advocates the “elimination of parasitically rampant Judaism” and the forced sterilization of Germans with “inferior genetic material” as expressions of a “will to a pure German character” (National Socialist Education, 1937).

Sander (and his institute) became known for investigations into actual visual genesis , which consisted of a differentiation in levels of the perception with a continuous increase in stimuli . Neither Krueger nor Sander tried to assign the sequence of the resulting design qualities to any structural conditions. Both the actual genetic research approach and the structural theory have fallen into oblivion and are no longer discussed by the majority.

Only the works of Otto Klemm (1884–1939) and his colleagues and doctoral candidates on human motor skills have been able to hold their own in scientific discourse up to the present day and are cited with a consistent continuity in work and movement science. Although they are based on the ideas of holistic psychology, they largely abstain from irrationalistic exaggerations and ideological exposure within the framework of National Socialism. The findings as well as the extremely careful and exemplary methodology for the time still claim to be valid today.

In addition, the works of Felix Krueger , after 1945 without any significant echo in psychology, are currently undergoing a hesitant reassessment in connection with psychotherapeutic practice. In particular, his comments on the theory of feeling and his emphasis on holism are in this context quite attractive concepts of healing work on and with people.

Würzburg School of Gestalt Psychology

The Würzburg School describes a direction in psychology that is based on the work of Oswald Külpe , Karl Marbe , August Messer , Narziss Ach , Karl Bühler and Otto Selz on the basis of thought psychology in the founding of the first psychological research institutions at the University of Würzburg at the beginning of the 20th century Century.

Graz or Austrian School of Gestalt Psychology

Philosophical background: Franz Brentano . Important representatives were: Alexius Meinong and above all Vittorio Benussi - to whom the development of the lie detector can be traced back and who also developed the methods of suggestion and hypnosis for general experimental psychological research - as well as Stephan Witasek and Christian von Ehrenfels .

Swiss psychologists and gestalt psychology

Richard Meili , the successor to Jean Piaget at the JJ Rousseau Institute in Geneva, combined the basic ideas of Gestalt psychology with the concept of factor analysis through his knowledge of German, French and English-language research. He defines the essential points of Gestalt psychology as follows:

  • Psychological processes take place in a complex, open system in which each subsystem is determined by higher-level, more comprehensive systems.
  • A system is a dynamic whole, determined by the relationship between the parts.
  • The dynamics of the psychic system is characterized by a tendency towards excellent states, i. H. to structures with balanced dynamic relationships.

The principle of the "primacy of the whole" is of particular importance for human cognitive processes. An important intelligence factor , plasticity , therefore relates to the ability to restructure problematic situations, i.e. - according to Karl Duncker - to overcome functional restrictions .

One of his students, Hans-Werner Hunziker , later (based on this concept) created a series of PC-based training programs and documented them through research.

See also


  • Vittorio Benussi : Psychological writings. First text-critical edition in two volumes by Mauro Antonelli (Ed.): Volume I, Psychological Essays (1904–1914) ; Volume II, Psychology of the Conception of Time (1913). Rodopi, Amsterdam 2002.
  • Ralf Debus: Gestalt psychology of viewing art. An introduction based on the work descriptions by Werner Schmalenbach. Tredition Verlag, Hamburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-7345-5607-4
  • Christian von Ehrenfels : About design qualities . In: Quarterly journal for scientific philosophy. 14, 1890, pp. 249-292. accessed December 11, 2013.
  • Kurt Guss : Rubin's cup. Gestalt theoretical propaedeutic course. Publishing house of the Ostwestfalen Academy, Borgentreich 2013, ISBN 978-3-947435-26-5 .
  • Kurt Guss (Ed.): Berlin School. Gestalt theory revision course. Publishing house of the Ostwestfalen-Akademie, Borgentreich 2018, ISBN 978-3-947435-12-8 .
  • Kurt Guss (ed.): Wertheimer's window. Gestalt theoretical colloquium. Publishing house of the Ostwestfalen-Akademie, Borgentreich 2018, ISBN 978-3-947435-13-5 .
  • Kurt Guss (ed.): Psychological research. Years 1922–1938. Publishing house of the Ostwestfalen-Akademie, Borgentreich 2019, ISBN 978-3-947435-14-2 .
  • Wolfgang Metzger : Laws of Seeing. Kramer, Frankfurt am Main 1953.
  • Wolfgang Metzger: Psychology. The evolution of their basic assumptions since the introduction of the experiment. Steinkopf, Darmstadt 1954.
  • Wolf Singer : Gestalt Perception: Interaction of the Eye and the Brain. In: H. Kettenmann , M. Gibson: Cosmos brain . Neuroscientific Society V. and BMBF, Berlin 2002.
  • Albert Wellek: The problem of being in the soul. Felix Krueger's structural theory: interpretation and criticism. 2nd, expanded edition. Hain, Meisenheim / Glan 1953.

Web links

Commons : Gestalt psychology  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Wertheimer 1923, studies on the doctrine of the shape (II)
  2. Archived copy ( Memento from February 28, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Archived copy ( Memento from June 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Stephen E. Palmer: Vision Science . MIT Press, Cambridge (USA) 1999, ISBN 0-262-16183-4 .
  5. Eberhard Loosch: Otto Klemm (1884–1939) and the Psychological Institute in Leipzig . LIT, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-8258-0981-2 .
  6. ^ Mark Galliker, Margot Klein, Sibylle Rykart: Felix Krueger. In: Milestones in Psychology. The history of psychology by person, work and effect. (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 334). Kröner, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-520-33401-5 , pp. 304-308.
  7. Richard Meili: The structure of intelligence. Hans Huber Verlag, Bern 1981, ISBN 3-456-80908-5 , pp. 72-75.