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Chapter 10

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University of Toronto Scarborough
G Cupchik

Chapter 10- Gestalt Psychology and the Social Field Introduction:  The gestalt concept was first introduced by Goethe  Characteristic properties cannot be reduced to the sum of their so called parts  The approach of the gestalt psychologists put in opposition the associationalists and behaviourists  Gestalt psychology believes that introspection and behaviourism is doomed to failure due to it taking things apart and analyzing them to try to understand from the bottom up, in terms of elements such as stimuli of sensations Max Wertheimer  Considered the founder for gestalt psychology  Phi Phenomenon: o A demonstration is a simple, easily observed phenomenon, usually requiring only minimal apparatus, that has the same effect for almost everyone o Famous gestalt demonstration is the phi phenomenon: two lights can be turned on alternately by means of the switch. Each light casts a different shadow on the screen. However, at the right rate of alteration, a participant does not see two shadows, but one shadow moving back and forth o This explanation holds that apparent motion occurs as a result of an inference, however Wertheimer insisted that the experience of apparent motion did not include ant inferences, rather if one took the experience seriously, as it presented itself and without and theoretical bias, you discovered a perception of motion even though no stimulus moved o Phi phenomenon states that out perception is not just a copy of the stimulus, rather our experience tends to be as simple as possible, thus when conditions allow, we perceive one thing moving rather than two things flashing on and off  Minimal Principle o Means we do not perceive what is actually in the external world so much as we tend to organize our experience so that it is as simple as possible o The simplest perception is often the most realistic one o Gestalt contention that simplicity is a principle that guides out perception and may even override the effects of previous experience  Precursors of Gestalt Psychology o Christian von ehrenfels suggested that experiences such as that of a melody should be understood as composed of individual sensations such as those corresponding to the individual notes, plus a gestalt quality that provided the form of the experience, that is the melody as a whole o True ancestor if gestalt psychology is Kant, who argued against the associationist notion that our experience was derived from events in the external world o Kant believed that we experience cause and effect relationships on the world, rather than observing them in the world o Phenomenology: philosophical method designed to describe consciousness as it presents itself to us, without any presuppositions as to its nature or purpose o Phenomenology means as naïve and full a description of direct experience as possible o Gestalt psychologists refused to agree with behaviourists like Watson in banning the study of experience all together, rather they saw phenomenology 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 o These laws presented by Wertheimer , were intended to describe the basic ways in which we organize our experience as simple and coherently as possible o Gestalt psychologists believed that proximity, similarity, good continuation and closure are examples of principles that govern how our experience is organized o Figure and ground o Another basic principle of perceptual organization is the distinction between 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 attention o Productive Thinking o Among Wertheimer’s most influential works was productive thinking o Pointed out that improper teaching methods lead to a rote memorization of solutions that are not transferred well to new situations whereas good teaching lead to deep understanding of the structure of a problem o Such understanding involves grasping the gestalt of a problem-how the parts of a problem are related to one another  Wolfgang Kohler o Most influential publication was the mentality of apes o The mentality of apes: chimpanzees were useful subjects because they could be placed in an experimental situation and required to solve a problem that they may never have faced before o One of his chimpanzees kohler described to have insight, what kohler meant by this is the ability to understand how the parts of a situation are related to one another o Insight occurred spontaneously and suddenly, and it involved a perceptual restricting of a the situation o Insightful processing was a all or nothing phenomenon: the animal saw the solution or it did not. o Similar to Thorndike’s puzzle box experiments o Gestalt psychologists argued that thorndike’s cats had been placed in a situation in which there was nothing to be understood  The concept of isomorphism o Kohler believed that there were parallels between the phenomenon of psychology and those of physics o He argued that the gestalt approach agreed with perfectly clear procedures and that’s in natural science. In a sense, gestalt psychology has became a kind of application of field physics to essential parts of psychology and brain physiology o From a gestalt viewpoint, the brain was such as region, in which fields of electric current determined our experience o Field theory required a novel approach to the relation between experience and the brain, which kohler termed isomorphism o Isomorphism is a variant of psychological parallelism, the doctrine of the mind-brain relation held by many previous psychologist. Ex. The necker cube, such alterations were produced as a result of
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