PSYC85H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Wolfgang Köhler, Word Association, Behaviorism
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all the same laws that govern what happens in any other realm. In an organism, simplicity in
experience is the necessary outcome of basic processes in the brain.
Precursors of Gestalt Psychology
- Christian von Ehrenfels suggested that experiences (ie. melody) should be understood as
composed of individual sensations (ie. individual notes), plus a Gestalt quality that provided the
form of the experience (melody), as a whole.
- Wertheimer rejected the existence of Gestalt qualities superimposed on sensation, in fact he
rejected the existence of sensations as such because in psychology, the possibility of advance
requires a procedure ‘from above’ not from ‘below upward’. Thus the comprehension of whole
properties and whole-conditions must precede consideration of the real significance of ‘parts’.
- One of the true ancestors of Gestalt psychology is Kant; he argued against associationist notion
that our experience was derived from events in the external world. He says that our experience
was a construction, not a mirror of external events. He believed we impose cause-and-effect
relationships on the world, rather than observing them in the world. Whenever we observe 2
events occurring close together in space and time, we have a tendency to experience as one causing
- another movement with which Gestalt psychology had much in common is phenomenology- the
attempt to describe consciousness as it presents itself to us, without any presuppositions as
to its nature or purpose. For Gestalts, phenomenology means as naïve and full a description
of direct experience as possible. They saw it as different from trained introspection because
it was less biased and very useful as a starting point in psychological investigation.
The Laws of Perceptual Organization
Gestalt laws of organization- the basic ways in which we organize our experience as
simply and coherently as possible.
- This includes: law of proximity, law of similarity, good continuation and closure. These are all
examples of principles that govern how our experience is organized.
Figure and Ground
in order for perception to occur it must be organized into something that stands out and to which
we pay attention (the figure) displayed against a background to which we tend not to pay
Wertheimer’s most influential works was Productive Thinking. He
liked to point out that improper teaching methods lead to a fixed
memorization of solutions that are not transferred well to new
situations, whereas good teaching methods lead to a deep
understanding of the structure of a problem. There is a difference
between ‘structurally blind’ teaching methods and those that teach students principles that can be
generalized to new situations.
i.e. (page 240)
Students shown a parallelogram and taught how to find its area by dropping a line from the upper
left corner and a line from the upper right corner and then connecting the base line to meet the
second perpendicular. He says that students can learn this procedure by fixed without