Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Journal Entry 1: Gestalt Psychology

Amy Amezquita
History & Systems 
Journal Entry 1: Gestalt Psychology 


In chapter 10 from The Story of Psychology, the author discusses the emergence of a New Psychology that strayed away from the influences of Wunditan and Physiological Psychology beliefs by focusing more on the mind's cognitive processes affecting our perception in everyday life. The main 3 leading psychologists, Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka, each contributed to the creation of Gestalt Psychology with a shared interest in understanding visual illusions, the mind's tendency to organize the things we see, and scientific research methods. The author explores each psychologist's works in defining a greater appreciation of how the brain perceives and thinks what an individual sees and hears as well as problem-solving and remembering.


Much of the information I remembered from my Cognitive Psychology class when we were learning about perception and higher mental processes within Gestalt Psychology. I found the author to have explained the differences of bottom-top to top-bottom thinking processes in an understandable manner as Gestalt Psychology was changing the standard view of how the human mind works by disapproving sensory information (bottom-top processing) as an accepted way to comprehend mental processes (top-bottom processing) for things we see and hear like illusions. In addition, Kohler monkey studies reveal the small cognitive skills we take for granted such as insight in problem-solving for various situations when the monkey used the objects around them to reach a banana on the ceiling. I thought this was intriguing because compare to Thorndike's cat boxes, the monkey did not rely on stimulus-response learning to overcome the problem but instead generalize and apply the solution through modified ways to different problems (almost like it was adapting the more it learned).  


A primary concept I found to be quite relevant to understanding why some people may find satisfaction when things are organized was Wertheimer's research with his view of the "whole is not only more than the sum of its parts, but it is also entirely different from the sum of its parts" as it focused on thinking and metacognitive processes. The Law of Pragnanz was something that Wertheimer theorized in the organization of how things are grasped as wholes which required the least amount of energy used in cognitive processes (without having to rethinking about it) to comprehend what we are seeing (ex. flashing bulbs of light making a circle). There were also specific laws/principles of grouping (Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, Closure, and Connectedness) the Gestalt psychologists used to determine how humans perceive visuals in connection with different objects and environments in their lives as they believed the truth was determined by the entire structure of our experiences rather than by individual sensations or perceptions. This was the main theme behind much of their research and the development of their practice in influencing other fields of psychology like social psychology up until the 1930s.


I feel the author raised some implications to the reader about how people may be misunderstood of their perceptions as truths and why Gestalt Psychology provided a more structured and step by step outlook in researching how the mind functions. He did so by highlighting the importance of Wertheimer, Köhler, and Koffka's researches in challenging the overlooked areas of the mind (organization of information and visuals, memory, and problem-solving) many popular psychologists (behaviorism) dismissed as well as explaining how learning occurs not from a behaviorists' POV. Thus, the information in this chapter related to various situations we would never think or perceive a second time about until we really do so carefully (Ex. visual illusions or live room escape games) allowing us to sink in how we could alter our perceptions by knowing how our brains take in information and interpret it into truth and knowledge to new situations. 

Check out if this woman is really rotating in one direction or not! Maybe your mind is playing tricks on you~


  1. Hey great post Amy, I really enjoyed reading this chapter because it discussed how the brain takes in information from, trial and error and saves it. Then it allows us to look for new ideas and or solutions to solve the issue, and this is all in the mind. The Gestalist psychology really allowed people to think more openly and on their own with listening to the rationale of other psychologists. This opened the door for seeing new experiments such as Kholer's experiment with the chimpanzees and even the chickens. In addition Wertheimer was even able to teach mute and deaf kids using patterns and perception. Before the Gestalist psychology discovery, I feel as if everything was limited on how people can think for themselves and solves problems with Wundtian psychology.

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