Chapter 10 discusses Gestalt Psychology and those who helped explore and grow this field.
Gestalt psychology views a whole as more than the sum of its parts, in fact it views the whole object as completely different from the parts that make it up. It is a psychology of thinking, discussing perceptual organization in the brain and how that translates to real life. The first person to think about this area was Max Wertheimer. His first experience in the field of Gestalt psychology involved a children’s toy that you looked into and gave an impression of movement. He continued experiments on perception with the help of assistants and subjects Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka. Through assorted experiments he came up with the theory that the mind adds structure and meaning to incoming sensations, which was very different from any other theories at the time. Despite the fact that his theories were different from anything at the time, other researchers began to agree with his ideas as they were slowly finding evidence that the current theories could not explain all their findings. Wertheimer went on to dive farther into the Gestalt concept and even developed a set of laws. Kohler and Koffka also went on to apply Gestalt principles to other aspects of psychology. Specifically, Kohler did experiments with animals and concluded that there is a structural correspondence between experience and underlying brain processes, meaning that relations are the key to perception, learning and memory. Koffka applied Gestalt principles to human development. He found that early learning is predominantly sensorimotor and children learn effectively through imitation. He stated that the highest type of learning is ideational learning, a method involving the use of language. Another notable concept from Koffka is the idea that instinctive behavior is not a chain of reflexive responses mechanically triggered by a stimulus but rather a group or pattern of reflexes aimed at achieving a particular goal. This means that although certain reflexes exist when the accompanying stimulus is present that does not necessarily mean the organism will act on those reflexes. Over time, Gestalt principles melded with other psychological concepts and became less of its own area as its ideas were applied to other concepts. The most interesting concept in this chapter is that there is a structural correspondence between experience and underlying brain processes. Kohler’s implications with this idea include the thought that forming relations can lead to successful learning, memory and perception in ways that may not have been previously thought of as optimal. The questions brought about by this idea lead to many further developments in the field of learning and memory, ones that we still follow today. His purpose was simply to explain that experience may be the key to learning, a concept different from anything else at the time.