The Conclusions of Gestalt Psychology and Its Limitations

  • Jürgen Weber


The gestalt (form) psychologists were the first to recognize this question as a central problem. Up to the end of the nineteenth century it was thought that a whole was constructed by adding up its perceived details, i.e. that perception proceeded from the individual to the general, the gestalt psychologists — hence the name they chose for themselves — proceeded from the opposite hypothesis: initially a geometrically simplified whole form is perceived and only then, in further acts of seeing, the details, also geometrically simplified, of course. Thus Arnheim writes in his well-known book “Art and Visual Perception” (1954), “The experimental findings demand a complete turnabout in the theory of perception. It seemed no longer possible to think of vision as proceeding from the particulars to the general. On the contrary, it became evident that over-all structural features are the primary data of perception, so that triangularity is not a late product of intellectual abstraction but a direct and more elementary experience than the recording of individual detail. The young child sees ‘doggishness’ before he is able to distinguish one dog from another.”


Visual Perception Complete Turnabout Perceptual Unit Distant Shape Opposite Hypothesis 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jürgen Weber
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Elementares FormenTU BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany

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