The Gestalt Theory – Research Paper

The Gestalt Theory was a theory developed and propounded in the 1920s by German Scientist and was an attempt to understand how the brain perceived objects. It held that if an objected were to be sighted by an individual, the brain would automatically and even at other times unconsciously simplify it, order and arrange as the whole would be considered greater than the total (sum) of its various parts.

This theory was also of the opinion that as human beings could see by ostensibly forming light, contours and even dark images into one whole image without even battling an eyelash. It is however noteworthy to acknowledge that the whole image that is perceived in the brain would be quite different from the sum of all the parts that came together. This meant that our brains usually summed up the way we recognize images and figures and forms a complete one instead of just viewing the image as an assortment of simple shapes, lines and curves.

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This theory also has six principles, figure, similarity, proximity, closure, continuation and order. Figure principle is responsible for exposing the perceptual tendency we bequeath to differentiate images from their environment, similarity which looks into the likeness of visual characteristics, proximity refers to how objects that are each other always seem to appear as a group, closure when an encoded patterns which causes the recognition of satisfactory images, continuity suggests that the shapes have no ending and never coming to an end, and the last principle being symmetry as the user perceives that the subject must not be give an impression that something is out of balance or missing

The underlying epistemological paradigm that is the underlying foundation of this theory is logical positivism. This epistemological paradigm propounds that metaphysical arguments and philosophies should be rejected and individuals should only believe what has been proven to exist or be the way it is after there being scientific investigation. Metaphysical assumptions are ontological in nature and thus are rejected as they don’t lead to a practical realistic answer.

This empirical study done here thus proves a fact by the use of science and rejects any of the philosophical notions brought fourth that cannot be proven or verified scientifically. This theory attempts to prove why our brain chooses to perceive images the way it does by the use of science and thus giving an explanation that is ostensibly scientific in nature and also showing that reality does exist and I this case it is external to the particular researcher conducting the research to using the method of scientific inquiry.

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In explaining the Gestalt Theory an example of the panda logo in World Wildlife Federation can be used. This logo contains an assortment of odd shapes that are put together to make an image that the human brain interpret as that of the panda. However, it is important to note that the image is in actual sense incomplete and the collection is just arranged in a way that makes our mind form the shape of a panda. To most, if not all people, the empty spaces in the outline of the collective image were ignored and the image perceived as that of a panda

The ‘Bottom up-process’ as it was coined by a psychology professor by the name Philip Zimbar do was this process of us not having to think about it but the mind immediately decides to form the image in our heads. This theory is thus a proposition that the brain in its operations acts in a holistic nature together with its self-organizing predisposition and the individual ends up perceiving an incomplete image as a whole without even being aware of this fact and the connection of the various parts. This image can thus not be change when it is transposed in the image making process.

Extensive research was done by scientist in to this theory and some researchers, such as Norbert .M. Steel explicitly studied the theory and its application outside of psychology in fields such as economics, music, art, mathematics and even sociology. The rise of basic assumptions of the Gestalt theory in psychology led to cognitive psychologists delving in the study of complex structures of knowledge which later came to be known as scripts, schemas or mental models. (Seel, 2011, p.1370). The rise of the Gestalt Theory and its use in post-war Germany can be attributed to a Frankfurt institute professor by the name Edwin Rausch. He would give examples such as that of an adolescent and his mother in public where an individual who has prior knowledge of the two would comment about how the teenager has grown and how tall he has become, but in actual sense this concerns both mother and son. This would in essence mean that the mother who is a fully grown adult is being treated as a collection to the endpoint which is meaningful belongingness (Ash, 1998, 396).

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Some of the assumptions and approaches that are present in the Gestalt Theory have been used in modern times to actions such as image analysis, in which a probabilistic approach is employed.  Gestalt psychology is usually in the quest to decipher psychological phenomena by the process of viewing them as organized and structured collective object rather than the sum of the various parts that it is constituted of. Agnes Desolneux attempts to explain the Gestalt Theory in her own way by applying its use in describing visual reconstruction. This is where the eye perceives an image as a whole and ignoring the various anomalies the image might be having. The retina perceives an image as a hole and the eye ignores the mathematical representation thus creating a full image at the retina while ignoring all other anomalies present.(Desolneux, Moisan, & Morel, 2008, p.1)

There were researchers such as psychologist Edward C. Tolman   propounded that it was the external stimuli that led to the change in cognition and it is this that the attention was to be paid. He is also of the opinion that cognition is responsible for our adaptation and acclimatization to a new experience through previous experiences. When such an animal is put in a new confusing situation,  it is able to use its olfactory, auditory or visual cues to adapt to this new situation. For instance, if a herbivore that feeds on maize stalks is put in a new confusing situation, it will end up moving around in its blindness of information, but will finally find the food. Cognition for such an animal would come from the various experiences it has had in the past and this would enable it to finally end up where its food is (Burns & Dobson, 1984, p.201).

Research into the Gestalt theory was also responsible for the creation of  the Visual Motor Gestalt Test by Lauretta Bender in the year 1938 and was also based on the evaluation of visual-motor functioning and the in adults and sometimes even children. This test was also used to assess the visual maturity, the reaction of the subject to stressful situations, their planning and organizational skills and integration skills (Craighead & Nemeroff, 2003, p.119). This projective test was also one of the first non verbal personality tests done by scientists and researchers.  The test as an instrument of evaluation had the advantage of removing the problems that are usually experienced with language and this allowed the subjects to avoid consciously scanning and screening the responses that they would make.

Gestalt Theory as explained by Edwin Rausch

As explained earlier, rise of the Gestalt Theory and its use in post-war Germany can be hugely attributed to a Frankfurt institute professor by the name Edwin Rausch who worked to prove his position in this particular area of study. Rausch was an ardent proponent of this theory and his studies and research were based on empirical work which would be dealing with phonological aspects .

Rausch would give the example of a cabinet in a house. According to him, the cabinet could be seen by different people as wide or narrow, high or low and this was in regard to its comparison with the measurements of the house. This was considering that the room was treated as being a constant while the cabinet was the variable. This is meant that he had differentiated the dimensions of meaningfulness that was based on the specific subjects being studied as the objects are connected to other reference.

The research he did consisted of one involving a mother and a son. It was noted that when the adolescent and his mother in public where an individual who has prior knowledge of the two would always comment on how the teenager has grown or even how tall he has become, but in actual sense this concerns both mother and son as she is part of the situation. The son does not enjoy autonomy of appearance as the mother is in the vicinity. This would in essence mean that the mother who is a fully grown adult is being treated as a collection to the main endpoint which actually is meaningful belongingness The son in this situation would represents a second dimension which is permeated with autonomy referred to as Eigenstandigket which was a degree to which the object being referred to represents a prototype from which other objects are resultant from and for which they may be compared to in future (Ash, 1998, 396).

These two examples are also responsible for showing that the epistemological paradigm used here which ostensibly is a scientific one bases most of its evidence on empirical research that has data and can be proven using the various laws of science.

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